Tsuyoshi Yamamoto


#1

I picked up a couple of Tsuyoshi Yamamoto recordings and have listened to them multiple times at the suggestion of others. I am not favorably impressed with either the sound or the performances.



While the recordings are very clean, they are odd. The piano is close mic’d for the high notes, emphasizing the percussive nature of the piano but with a harsh, thin strident sound. The midrange and bass are however exceedingly recessed, well out of balance with the highs, as if they are played on an entirely different instrument 30 feet back. It is both unpleasant and unmusical. No piano sounds even vaguely like this, even with your head under the lid.



The drums and bass appear to be mixed to balance with the piano’s recessed midrange. Accordingly, they are too low in level - a strange decision for a trio.



Musically, the albums are exceedingly safe, uninteresting, and often annoying. Mr. Yamamoto possesses poor technique and limited creativity at best. The music is staid, unsophisticated, repetitive.



Technically, his touch is uneven, The dynamics of individual notes in a phrase are randomly louder and softer, and runs unevenly timed without the fluidity of a player in command of his instrument. This is not musical expression, but uncontrolled lack of basic playing ability.



The larger problem however is the uninteresting performances of limited emotional range. He does not introduce any new ideas or harmonic developments. He relies heavily on tremolo (a rapidly repeated single note, or octaves, very theatrical), an effect he uses continually, repetitively to annoying effect. To make things worse, his limited technique guarantees the tremolo is uncontrolled and uneven in both speed and dynamics. His similarly overuses arpeggio (rolling the notes of a chord rather than striking them together) as a crutch.



The overall musical effect is of a theatrical church choir gospel piano player making her first jazz recording with the encouragement of her coffee clatch friends. The church ladies may love it, but stay away.


#2

Gee, does that mean you didn’t enjoy them? :)) Keep in mind he has a Japanese accent.

I saw him with Suzuki in Tokyo and really enjoyed them.

Which ones did you get?

Are they 3 blind mice label?


#3

His most popular albums are:

Most popular Tsuyoshi Yamamoto albums

1 * Misty [2004] −

2 * Midnight Sugar [2004] −

3 * Tsuyoshi Yamamoto [2003] −

4 * Speak Low [1999] −

5 −4 Autumn In Seattle −


#4

@elk - “Apart from that Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”





#5

David: =))



ELK: I admit his style is less like Clapton and more like Tom Waits or Buddy Guy but I enjoy his stuff even if he may lack Juliard approval. I think he matches well with Suzuki for some interesting twists.

Let me know what you bought and I’ll try to send you some suggestions.


#6
Gordon said: . . . more like Tom Waits or Buddy Guy but I enjoy his stuff even if he may lack Juliard approval.

I was unclear. To be more blunt: the issue is not that he lacks classical chops, it is more basic; he lacks chops, period. He sounds like he cannot get around the keyboard without checking a map. (Waits and Guy are excellent musicians - they can play.)

Compare him with *any* other keyboard player - Corea, Jarrett, Booker T., Hyman, Evans, Hancock, Tord Gustavsen, anybody. These guys do not have classical chops, but are fine, fine technicians. As an example, listen to a single run of notes - not even a fast run. Notice he cannot play three notes in a row with the same tempo or dynamic. He plays with the uncertainty and lack of control of a third-year piano student.

I would be impressed if he was a high school performer beginning to learn. We would note that he has a promising future. :)

Additionally, aside from the lack of proficiency, his interpretations are boring, static, safe, and repetitive. They go nowhere; no shape, no form, no development, no creativity. "I do not know what to do so I will rock the same notes, unevenly, in octaves for a while." "I got away with it. I'll do it again."

And then there is the hideous recording decisions. ARGH!

I have Misty, Autumn in Seattle and What a Wonderful Trio! (ironic title, this).

David said: “Apart from that Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

:)

#7

Elk, don’t hold back, man. Tell us what you’re really thinking. I’m going to run out and not get these today! :smiley:


#8

Those are all “good”. I prefer Misty. There is also a Live version of Misty.

Check out Isao Suzuki with Yamamoto on youtube “BLUE CITY”.

You might enjoy that more.


#9
Elk said: Corea, Jarrett, Booker T., Hyman, Evans, Hancock, Tord Gustavsen, anybody


....Stenson, Bollani, Rosnes.....

#10

If you a looking for an Japanese revelation on the Piano, look for Masabumi Kikuchi. Featuring in trio format with “Tethered Moon”. The First Meeting album is to die for. Also check out his solo work. Then there is of course Hiromi Uehara, at her finest on the “Jazz in the Garden” recording with the Stanley Clark trio. Phenomenal recording quality to boot. In fact my reference for acoustic bass and cymbals sound quality on good old 44/16.


#11

Kikuchi’s Sunrise is an interesting piece of work. Thanks for the tips on the other recordings. Looks like someone is going to make some money off of me today… :slight_smile:


#12

Try “after hours” which is piano solo.


#13

Thanks, edorr! I enjoy checking out artists I have not previously heard.



wglenn said: I’m going to run out and not get these today!


Good one!



The Tsuyoshi Yamamoto recordings would not annoy so much but for the attention he has received in the press and the accolades. There are many high quality performances and music I do not happen to care for, but given the raves I expect a certain basic level of capability.



Performance aside, what do others think of the recordings themselves?

#14

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio

Biography

Imagine listening to a piano trio, alone in the middle of the night as you sip your favourite drink. Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio offers just such a mood. Yamamoto is highly musical and his expressions natural. Neither overly technical nor overly serious, and his performance is relaxed and melodious. This album is his second, after the debut “Midnight Sugar” (TBM XR 0023). The same closely-knit trio plays here, with Isoo Fukui on bass and Tetsujiro Obara on drums.



Tsuyoshi Yamamoto was born on 23rd March 1946. He started to play the piano when he was in primary school. In junior high school, he played the trumpet. His interest in jazz began when he first heard Art Blakey’s tunes in the French movie, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”. It inspired him to return to the piano, to perfect his technique. During his university years, he played for Mickey Curtis and the Samurais and began his professional career, including tours with the group in Europe. Following this, he joined other bands and played in clubs. In l973, he formed his own band. As he polished his piano skills, he came to idolize pianists such as Bobby Timmons, Wynton Kelly and Red Garland. Yamamoto’s melodic technique and phrasing reflect Kelly’s influence. His use of block chords in ballads is similar to Garland’s. He had also heard Monk’s solo. When this record was made, his chief interest was pianists such as Randy Weston. Isoo Fukui was born on 10 April 1947 and came to Tokyo in 1968. He has played in a number of groups and in 1972 joined the MASARU IMADA TRIO. Tetsujiro Obara was born on 23 March 1941. At the university he played in the brass band. In l965,he became a professional. He has played in a number of bands, in many clubs and formed his own band. His favourite drummer is Elvin Jones.



1. Misty - The title number is one of Enroll Garner’s famous creations. Most Garner’s compositions are cooly erotic and this one is no exception. The performance skillfully preserves the original mood.

2. Blues - By Tsuyoshi, this number shows his emotional affinity with the blues. It has a relaxed atmosphere.

3. Yesterdays - By Jerome Kern for the musical “Roberta”, this is a famous jazz standard. Isoo’s bass begins the theme.

4. Honoy Suckle Rose - By Fats Waller, it is the theme song for the musical “Load to Coal”. In this pleasing interpretation Tsuyoshi begins with a light piano phrase.

5. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes - As “Yesterdays”, this was in “Roberta”. Tsuyoshi’s piano changes expression in a striding and individual manner.

6. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was - This Richard Kodgers composition is a famous jazz standard - A fine performance.

7. Angel Eyes - One of Matt Dennis’ representative compositions, an appropriate close to the album. In his solo,Tsuyoshi extends the mood of this ballad.



This album won the “Best Engineering Award” of Jazz Disk Award, Swing Journal Magazine, Critic’s Poll 1974.


#15

Do you personally care for the sound, especially the piano - the steely highs, the recessed midrange? How about the balance between the instruments?



I read this promotional bio before I obtained the recordings. This partially why I am so surprised at the lack of performance quality - and disappointed.


#16

I have to listen to this “Yamamoto” phenomenon at some point. I will render a verdict on where I think he ranges on the “elevator music” to “artistic genius” spectrum. Stay tuned. The name does not bode well though - associate this with a hibachi restaurant or mass market consumer electronics brand, not a master of the keyboard :slight_smile:


#17

@elk

I do enjoy and have most of the 3blind mice series.

Not because he is a master of anything but because of his mix and interpretations that are less predictable than many.

I do think that Suzuki on bass is a better compliment to him though.

Did you listen to Blue City?


#18
edorr said: I will render a verdict on where I think he ranges on the "elevator music" to "artistic genius" spectrum.

I feel very comfortable he will fit somewhere within this range.

I have attached both a FLAC file of the first track of his album "Misty" which, coincidentally, is "Misty." I cut out a portion of the middle so that the file is small enough to upload. The cut is at 2:22.245 seconds to be precise.

I am very curious to learn what others think of both the recording and performance. This track illustrates the steely piano high end, the recessed piano midrange, the uneven playing and overuse of tremolo and arpeggios, the odd instrument balance, the slightly out of tune bass, etc. Not that any of this should influence your judgement. :)
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#19

Recording nerd stuff:



I have attached a drawing of the way the album was recorded.



The piano was recorded with two Electro Voice RE20 mics, (and a Neumann - this one is nice).



The RE20 is an inexpensive ($500) dynamic mic used primarily for voice broadcasting and voice-overs. This partially explains the piano sound. I am surprised given Winston Ma’s reputation.

Attached files


#20
edorr said: If you a looking for an Japanese revelation on the Piano...

I recommend you even more Masabumi Kikuchi ’s early works from ’70 (Matrix, Re-confirmation, Poo-Sun, Hairpin Circus, Hollow Out, End For The Begining, etc.). I like the atmosphere of his albums and I collect his LP's from years, unfortunately very hard to find them but is worth for diggin '. He played also with many great US jazzers like Miles Davis, Gil Evans , Joe Henderson, Gary Peackock, Elvin Jones, etc.

Masahiko Sato is another genius, practically he is at home everywhere in jazz: modal, avant-garde, free, jazz-rock, fusion,... also as composer.

I have to mention also Takehiro Honda.