At the forefront of Brooklyn’s burgeoning big band scene, the Japanese-born composer Asuka Kakitani has attracted some of New York’s finest jazz artists with her adventurous, melodically charged charts. After several years of regular performances around New York City, the dynamically supple 18-piece Asuka Kakitani Jazz Orchestra makes a stunning debut with Bloom, due out January 26 on Nineteen-Eight Records.
Outside of Lincoln Center, virtually all jazz orchestras exist as a labor of love. Kakitani has fostered the necessary dedication among her peers with writing so bright, vivid and personal that it inspires some of New York’s leading improvisers to wondrously expressive heights. Prominently featured among the album’s stellar cast are saxophonist John O’Gallagher, trombonist Jacob Garchik, guitarist Pete McCann, pianist Mike Eckroth, drummer Mark Ferber, and Portuguese-born vocalist Sara Serpa,
“I want to give these fantastic musicians space to express themselves,” says Kakitani, 36. “I write the music and they play it, and I choose players that I feel tell a story. On this recording I got really emotional over how much they understand my music, while at the same time expressing themselves with such passion.”
A series of watercolor washed canvases, Bloom focuses on Kakitani’s original compositions and arrangements, music that unfolds with poetic flair and canny narrative drive. The album opens with the gloriously Technicolor title track, which Kakitani wrote as a BMI Manny Albam commission. While the tune isn’t strictly programmatic, Kakitani clearly draws from nature in the way the sinuously rising introduction evokes the time-lapse emergence of a sun- kissed bloom. The piece climaxes with a Ferber solo that’s a model of melodic drum work, elegant, sassy and precise.