Saxophonist and composer Ayumi Ishito has been performing in New York’s vast music scene since completing her studies at Berklee College of Music in 2010. In the time up until now Ishito has played a wide variety of musical styles such as jazz, blues, gospel, funk, experimental, world music and too many other sub-genres to name.
This time spent honing her craft outside of the academic world has given Ishito a roundness that she couldn’t have otherwise obtained. She has lent her talents to such diverse acts as the jazz/blues band The Jazz Thieves, the free-jazz/dome metal band The Eighty Pound Pug as well as the Avant jazz trio, Nova Project. Most recently though Ishito has been at the helm, making her very first record View from a Little Cave, an album that has its roots in jazz but its compositions, vastly rhythmic and avant-garde to say the least, seem to have more in common with indie rock than classic jazz.
This indie-inspired take on jazz becomes evident from the wondrous tempo shifts opening title track as Matthew Albeck’s electric guitar wah’s alongside Yoshiki Yamada’s electric bass grooves and Takafumi Suenaga’s keyboards while drummer Carter Bales masterfully maneuvers the beat. All throughout Ishito’s saxophone blows out notes as pure as the hues of color perfectly separated in the natural lines of a rainbow. Next on the slow, yet intense lounge offering “Still Shallow” Ishito’s sax at times sounds like it is being blown by the ghost of John Coltrane even as a slightly fed back electric guitar lightly chugs along in the background.
The longest track on View from a Little Cave, “Road Song” begins with Ishito softly blowing her saxophone and the listener is struck by an image of a dark and underground jazz club late at night with smoke hanging about the air, and a single, soft blue spotlight falling like a shadow upon the stage. This doesn’t last long though as Ishito and the band launch into a contorted, and thinly veiled cover of Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place.” Ishito and her band experiment a bit with the blues as well as funk and reggae on the out-there track “Walking on Mars.” Here Ishito, even though she is the star of the show, takes her time coming in and out of the song, letting her bandmates set the mood for a bit before coming in to help sharpen it. This restraint is a gift and only helps to make these songs that much more exciting and experimental which she’s up again on the long guitar interludes of the closing track, “Thirsty for It.”
On View from a Little Cave Ayumi Ishito expertly straddles two different worlds. In one sense these songs harken back to the jazz of old, and often Ishito’s saxophone pays homage to this period, yet her compositions are wholly her own and have a relevancy in the indie rock music here and now. Though Ishito’s cave may be little, the view is quite expansive.
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