of rare Japanese albums – in a special limited package! First up is Blow Up – a really great little set from Japanese bassist Isao Suzuki – a rare player who goes way way past traditional modes of his chosen instrument, into richly creative territory that rivals the 70s experiments of Ron Carter! Like Carter, Suzuki's never content to just let the bass be a source in the background – and instead really foregrounds his wonderful work on both cello and acoustic bass – with a sprightly sound that's as groovy as it is rhythmic – a really great sense of flow that almost makes you feel the set's electric, even though Isao plays acoustic all the way through. The album also features great work by pianist Kunihiko Sugano – who hits some fuller notes that really crackle with energy, and which unleash a surprising amount of soul on the best numbers – and the quartet also features additional bass from Takashi Mizuhashi and drums from George Otsuka. Titles include the great title cut "Blow Up", plus "Aquamarine", "Like It Is", and "Low Flight". Next is Midnight Sugar from pianist Tsuyoshi Yamamoto
– who's playing with a soulful, bluesy sort of style – one that reminds us a bit of Ray Bryant back in the 60s, but which also comes across here with a fair bit of lighter, lyrical touches as well! As with other Three Blind Mice albums from the time, the tracks here are all longish and open-ended – recorded with a nice sort of brightness that breaks from other jazz traditions, and moving in surprising ways at each new twist and turn. The group also features the great Isao Fukui on bass and Tetsujiro Obara on drums – and titles include "I'm A Fool To Want You", "Midnight Sugar", "The Nearness Of You", and "Sweet Georgia Blues". Last up is Misty from Yamamoto
– a hip set from the Three Blind Mice scene of the 70s, with a very open, freewheeling approach to piano trio
's a bit straighter than some of his contemporaries on the label, but still finds a way to really open things up with a fresh approach – a style that's strongly helped by the round, warm bass tones of Isoo Fukui – who's a great counterpoint to the jaggedly brilliant solo work from Yamamoto
himself. Tetsujiro Obara plays drums, and the album's a masterpiece of space and understatement – with titles that include "Yesterdays", "Misty", "Blues", and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes".
(Each album has two pieces of vinyl – each playing at 45rpm! Back cover has some light wear, but whole set is great.)