Saco Yasuma
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Saco Yasuma


Band Jazz Avant-garde


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"Jerry D'Souza"

Saco Yasuma discovered jazz in New York when she moved there from Tokyo in1989. While she loved the freedom that the music offered, she also immersed herself in Afro-pop, salsa, and Brazilian music. It was a defining moment when she discovered that free jazz was the ultimate form of improvisation.

Yasuma shows strong evidence of her ability to dissect, deconstruct and build. She stamps these attributes completely on "A Wind Blew Into My Hands," a solo outing. In less that three minutes she rides a storm of sound. Her alto raises its voice to dwell on the melody and then glides away. Intensity comes in a surge of bent notes and hard-hitting phrases.

"Calm Water" tells a different story. Yasuma plays the xaphoon on this folk tune, her vision straight ahead as she keeps the melody largely intact, filling it with an occasional billow. Trumpeter Roy Cabpbell Jr. and bass clarinetist Andrew Bemkey enhance the luminosity with delicately ornate lines. This dip in the mainstream worksmlike a charm.

A bright spark runs through "Liquid Entity" with Campbell and Bemkey (now playing piano) on the head before Campbell breaks loose to open a welter of notes that has him on the bop lines, growling the blues and coming off like Dizzy Gillespie. His ideas serve the cause well. Yasuma takes the force and invests it with her own imagination. She uses form and content as well as harmonies are rewarding before the end comes in an eruption of open-ended, erudite plaing from Yasuma.

Yasuma sits comfortably at the cross roads of composition and freedom to make some telling statements. - All About Jazz

"George W. Carroll"

“.... Also, her culture comes through loud & clear in her use of specific metaphors: Wind, Rain, Calm, Moon, Liquid, etc. I’m not in any way trying to suggest that what she’s created is simplistic……....Rather pure, freeing, passionate, & transcendent! Her very beautiful signature piece ‘’Another Rain’’ would suffice (I think) to silence any nay-say musical critic. As a composer, Saco conveys a certain relaxation & yearning in her writing with her ability to avoid evidence of any hackneyed writing motifs.”
- The Musicians Ombudsman

"Chris Spector"

“Avant garde lady sax player can play like she's one of the big boys, and we mean that in a good way. Very reminiscent of the 60's free jazz dates that sounded like some cats really hitting a groove in a basement studio, Yasuma has really honed her chops well. This is easily a must hear for free jazz fans that know there's been a lack of blowing like this for a long time.”
- Midwest Record

"Hank Shteamer"

“Avant-Jazz altoist Saco Yasuma has a theatrical bent, her group Synergy often appears wearing festive robes and masks courtesy of Amir Bey. But she’s not hiding anything; she got a killer sound and soulful compositions. Synergy made up of vets like Jackson Krall, Sabir Mateen. Has fun with the music” - Time Out New York

"The New Times Holler!"

“Ms. Yasuma’s hallmark is taking the audience on a journey that is stimulated by surprising touches that keep the listener perked and alert for what is coming up next.”
- The New Time Holler!

"Elliott Simon"

When a classically trained musician arrives in NYC from Japan and falls in love with jazz it can often times result in impressive technique and a sterile sound. Saxophonist Saco Yasuma's Another Rain is her debut as a leader and flies in the face of that stereotype in a big way. Yasuma, trained on piano, switched to alto saxophone soon after her arrival in NYC from Tokyo and played in a wide variety of ethno-centric bands that included Afropop, Salsa, and Brazilian. During this nearly two decade process, she discovered the ethnicity key to jazz's soul and blended it with her own rich heritage. By combining this sound with powerful visual imagery she staged elaborate performances that were integrated cultural happenings.

On this disc Yasuma plays both bamboo and alto sax with a group of musicians well-qualified to interpret these compositions' deep spirituality: Roy Campbell Jr. (trumpet, flugelhorn), Andrew Bemkey (piano, bass clarinet), Ken Filiano (bass) and Michael T.A. Thompson (drums). Yasuma's alto is throaty and she voices well with Campbell's trumpet over what at times is a surprisingly funky rhythm section. These compositions are substantial pieces that are heavy on melody but not short on freedom either. They can be decidedly urban or frankly exotic, the former driven by rhythm section's groove and latter by Yasuma's bamboo sax and intriguing voicings.

"A Wind Blew Into My Hands" gusts from her horn as a complete solo improv while "Fat Orange Moon," with poet Golda Solomon, recalls when word-jazz was hip. The title cut is a quite beautiful stylistic mix that mirrors the session as it alternately soothes and excites with soul, funk, blues and earthy autonomy. - AllAboutJazz


Another Rain, 2007 Leaf Note Productions(LNP-208)



Saco started studying classical piano at age six. As a young student of music, she wrote songs, piano pieces and arrangements of pop songs for school chorus groups when she was in her early teens. She was an active keyboardist in rock, funk and reggae groups and worked with singer- songwriters in Tokyo until she came to New York in 1989. In New York, she fell in love with Jazz concepts. She studied the saxophone and performed in Jazz, Brazilian, Salsa and Afro-pop bands. Around the year 2000, she began composing regularly, and realized that all her musical experiences, including the Japanese traditional sounds of her childhood found their way into her writing. She discovered that free Jazz was the ultimate form of improvisation for her, when she was invited to play with free jazz players such as Ras Moshe, Sabir Mateen, Steve Swell, Jackson Krall and Matt Lavell. Free jazz became another ingredient in Saco’s musical stew, as musicians and fans really began to take notice of her unique voice.

In 2001, Saco met Roy Campbell Jr., Andrew Bemkey and Michael Thompson at Lenox Lounge in Harlem where Roy held his Monday night jam session. She invited them to play her compositions in the concert series at SUNY Rockland College from 2003 to 2006 which she was the featured composer and saxophonist. Their interpretations of her music became her motivation to do the recording with them. The bassist Ken Filiano, who inspired Saco with his depth of playing joined the recording, and she released her first album "Another Rain" in spring 2007.

Saco has worked with Billy Bang, Ras Moshe, Matt Lavelle, Kali Z. Fasteau, Luther Thomas, Sabir Mateen, Steve Swell, Jackson Krall, Hill Green, Chris Sullivan, Lou Grassi and Jazz Poet, Golda Solomon, among other. She has collaborated with artists in dance and film as well. One of her ongoing projects is SYNERGY: Sight & Sound, a collaborative work with the visual artist, Amir Bey.