Tag Archives: Ubuntu Records

Yoko Miwa Trio: Songs of Joy

Yoko Miwa

Boston-based pianist Yoko Miwa has released a great new album called “Songs of Joy” on Ubuntu records. Official release date was last Friday, February 12.

A native of Kobe, Japan, Miwa studied with Minoru Ozone, a popular television organist and nightclub owner. Miwa worked at Ozone’s club until the great Kobe earthquake of 1995 destroyed it. She won first prize in a scholarship competition to attend Berklee and began quickly playing with students and teachers, including vocalist Kevin Mahogany, who chose the pianist to serve as accompanist in his classes and on his gigs.

On “Songs of Joy” she is accompanied by Will Slater and Brad Barett on acoustic bass and Scott Goulding on drums.

The album contains five originals which are the result of Yoko’s decision to start composing every day when the pandemic started. The six other songs have been carefully selected to match with the overall spirit of this recording.

The album starts with “Freedom” by Richie Havens, a powerful song and a powerful version by Yoko Miwa, the dense groove by bass and drums and the heavy-McCoy Tyner like chords create a great energy. Excellent and fantastic opener.

The album continues with “Largo Desolato” the first original by Yoko Miwa, the odd and modal groove in the A-part and the more conventional harmonies in the B-part of the song are in nice contrast and give this tune an interesting mixture. Yoko Miwa’s solo is again powerful and precise. As an encore of this song we hear a drum solo by Scott Goulding. One of my highlights on the album.

“Song of Joy”, somehow the title song of this album Billy Preston comes next. This beautiful ballad indulges in the great and simple harmonies and melody of this song. I wished this song would never end and just continue forever. Outstanding.

“Small Talk” is the next composition by Yoko Miwa and it is a nice and easy swinging tune in good contrast to the song we heard before. Nevertheless her solo is again impressive. A jam-style 4 x 4 exchange with drums finishes the solos.

“The Lonely Hours” another original by Yoko features Will Slater on bass. This soft and melodic song is in best modern European jazz piano trio tradition.

“No problem” by Duke Jordan increases the pace again. This medium-up jazz tune presents again a brave and hard swinging Yoko Miwa.

“The Rainbirds” is the next composition by Yoko. The piano lays out the latin groove and feel of this song. Will Slater gets another chance for a nice bass solo.

The album continues wit the Thelonious Monk composition “Think of One” . Yoko plays an interesting left hand with the simple melody. The solo starts and finishes as a dialog with the bass player and sounds quite Monk-ish. Will Slater on bass takes over seamlessly for his bass solo. A drums solo closes this very sophisticated version of Monk’s tune.

“Inside a Dream” is the last original on the album. Again, great melody and beautiful harmonies are the main characteristics of this easy song.

“Tony’s Blues” by Tony Germain is the next song. This minor standard blues is in a nice medium tempo allowing the band again to swing hard. Impressive block chords in Yoko Miwa’s piano solo.

The album closes with “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” by Anne Bredon. Brad Barett plays the melody on his bowed bass with soft drums and piano arpeggios. In the second half of this song Yoko Miwa and her powerful piano playing push this song significantly.

Yoko Miwa’s ninth album convinces with its great selection of originals and songs by other jazz, pop and folk musicians. Her piano playing is powerful and precise and always incredibly musical. Her fellow musicians on this album know how to support a pianist perfectly. So please listen to this album and enjoy the energy and the positive spirit of “Songs of Joy”.

Yoko has produced a lovely teaser video for this album which I would like to share with you:

More information is found on her website:

And here comes the album as playlist on Spotify:

Skeltr: Dorje


From Manchester, UK comes the band Skeltr with their second album ‘Dorje’ released on Ubuntu records on October 9.

The line-up for this band is

  • Sam Healey – Alto Saxophone, Vocals, Keys
  • Craig Hanson – Drums

Skeltr started as an experimental late night session and their first UK live show was at the 2017 Manchester Jazz Festival, where the band made an auspicious start, leading to performances across European jazz festivals, including Reykjavik JazzFestival, InJazz, Rotterdam and the famous Osloscene Club in Norway.
All six originals on the album are compositions by multi-instrumentalist Sam Healey and guest appearances are made by Hayley Williams on ‘Siren’ and Manchester rapper KinKai on ‘KinKai’s Question.’

The album starts with ‘Cheef Beef’ a song with a steady groove dominated by a multi-layered saxophone creating a really full and pushing sound. The lyrics of this song are about reflecting where we can find happiness. I guess the answer is given with this positive and cheerful song. Great start into the album.

‘Braila’ is the next song, named after the hometown of Sam’s wife. Long notes in the melody create an elevated feeling, like an anthem, but also with intermissions where Craig Hanson and his drumming is featured. A long and intensive saxophone solo leads to a magnificent end. One of my favorites on the album.

‘Siren’ features Hayley Williams on vocals, no lyrics, just her voice, the melody comes in unison with Sam Healey’s saxophone. Hayley’s singing has a great bluesy contrast to the clear composition.

‘KinKai’s Question’ is the next song and it features rapper KinKai in a fantastic song. Fender Rhodes and drums are laying the ground for the words of KinKai, another highlight of this album. The lyrics are inspired by the preface of the book ‘Modern Buddhism’ which Sam Healey presented to KinKai for this song.

‘Fjord’ starts with long synthesizer chords and a saxophone melody with very long notes, the middle part has harmonies that remind me of the Brecker Brothers.

‘Nesodden’ the last song is named after a small island near Oslo, Norway, where Sam spent some time and got the inspiration for this album watching the beautiful scenery and reflecting on the importance to work on his internal and external world. The melody comes again in great long lines, reducing to give space for an extensive saxophone solo, nicely supported by Craig Hanson on drums.

‘Dorje’ is a great album with a unique sound based on the saxophone playing of Sam Healey, the compositions are all convincing and the rich tone and the various stylistic elements are the main characteristics for this positive overall picture. Definitely something new and interesting, so please listen to this album.

Sam Healey produced also a nice little video going through the album and playing a little bit:

And finally the album as a playlist on Spotify: