A Time of New Beginnings
Composer Chie Imaizumi has to be one of the happiest, positive, most optimistic young woman alive. Her cup is not just half full; it runneth over. These qualities are great ones for people to have, but when transposed into music they unfortunately suffocate her latest album, A Time of New Beginnings. I was initially stoked to see the personnel on this album, which includes some of the finest jazz musicians working today. Bari saxist Gary Smulyan is a personal favorite of mine, as are reedmen Scott Robinson and Steve Wilson, and what I’m about to say is my take on Imaizumi’s writing and is no reflection of the album’s top notch and flawless playing.
Imaizumi’s arrangements take almost no advantage of the killing soloists in the ten piece band, which expands to eleven on “Information Overload” with the addition of guest Randy Brecker. Save for a couple fine bass solos by John Clayton, a rousing trumpet battle by Greg Gisbert and Terrell Stafford on “Run for Your Life,” and an awesome-as-usual solo from Smulyan, there is scant space for soloists to stretch out. What we have are tracks that are often over-composed (translate the visual image of the rarely successful way-over-designed dresses on Project Runway into sound and you’ve got it), that rely on gestures and chord progressions from other tunes on the album, and that lack full thematic development (repeating the same melody and trite figures ad nausea, or modulating lines up a half step only works so many times). Imaizumi’s music often seems to not know when to quit, as coda’s drag on and false endings abound. I do like some of the album’s writing, and Imaizumi is a talented young writer, but her music is in need of serious editing.
A nicer reviewer might call the music on Imaizumi’s album “ebullient, optimistic, and displaying an innocent child-like naiveté.” But because I’m a cynical bastard I describe it as saccharine, over-composed, immature, and lacking a fully developed artistic voice (so many parts of this record wish Maria Schneider wrote them). Imaizumi, by virtue of her music, song titles, and liner notes, seems to be a genuinely nice person who is happy, positive and optimistic, but those qualities are overdone to a fault on this record.
Imaizumi’s music seems to exist in a land where nothing can go wrong, and even the most dire situations always have a Hollywood ending; and although many would surely like to visit this magical realm, it is somewhere I’d prefer to avoid. You can find me at whatever dive Tom Waits happens to be singing “Everything Goes to Hell.”
Tracks: My Heartfelt Gratitude; Information Overload; Fear of the Unknown; A Time of New Beginnings; Run for Your Life; Today; Sharing the Freedom; Many Happy Days Ahead; Fun & Stupid Song.
Personnel: Chie Imaizumi, composer; Randy Brecker, trumpet (2); Greg Gisbert, trumpet; Terrell Stafford, trumpet; Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; soprano saxophone; sopranino saxophone; clarinet, flute; Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Steve Davis, trombone; Mike Abbott, guitar; Tamir Hendelman, piano; John Clayton, bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9); Paul Romaine, drums (2, 7, 9).