Yutaka Uchida
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Yutaka Uchida

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"Living Together review 2"

By Edward Blanco

The debut outing from Japanese-born, New York-based drummer Yutaka Uchida, "Living Together" is not a new album, in fact it was originally released in October 2007 receiving high marks from jazz critics. Listening to the melody-rich modern jazz material on this disc, combined with the flawless delivery from Uchida's New York crews, easily won this critic over whole-heartedly concurring with the previous appraisals of the music. Frankly, it is not Uchida's prowess on the drums that drew my interest, but the quality of his compositions. The drummer presents ten creative compositions every one of them unique in color providing a rhythmically-rich variety of a repertoire.

The album features two rhythm sections representing the music recorded in two different sessions combined for this release. Accompanying Uchida on the majority of the tracks are guitarist Ben Sher, fellow countryman, Eishin Nose on the keyboards and James Cammack on electric bass. Saxophonist Sean Nowell, pianist George Dulin and bassist Danny Zanker do the honors on four numbers.

"Mother Sea" opens the album in a stylish fashion with splashy cymbal accents from Uchida and Sher's delicate chord lines setting up a fine entrance from Nose on keyboards who leads the music and develops the piece into a sprawling spacious almost smooth-like tune. Zanker's acoustic bass introduces "Beyond the Horizon," an all together different textured composition featuring Nowell on the soprano saxophone and pianist Dulin soloing in front of Uchida's superb drumming performance.

Among the special highlights on this album are the lively energetic "Dance While You're Still Here," possessing a decidedly Latin jazz rhythm which draws heavily on Uchida's percussive beats and Nose's exquisite foray on the acoustic piano. "Truly Untrue" follows as a contemporary straight jazz number showcasing Nowell blowing an especially tasteful tenor romp. Things turn quiet on the soft-colored "Peaceful Eyes," a beautiful chart that provides a slice of tranquility .
In stark contrast, the following "Torrent of Lava" represents a volcanic eruption of sounds leaning on a heavily funky side to this piece.

The disc ends on the soft side with the tune "My Old Faithful" and the very light title track where Uchida takes to the brushes on a very pleasant finale to a very entertaining session of music. When you have a combination of engaging new material, excellent musicianship and a gifted leader at the helm, one can be assured of having a successful musical voyage. Yutaka Uchida's "Living Together" is an impressive debut and memorable modern jazz journey.

http://www.ejazznews.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=10294&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0 - eJazzNews

"Living Together review"

By Glenn Astarita

You don't need to be a music scholar to discern that drummer/composer Yutaka Uchida has immersed himself within a broad spectrum of jazz-related styles. After honing his practicing and educational musical persona in his native Japan, Uchida sojourned to New York City and became active in various jazz-related performances and disparate projects. As a composer, the artist has received grants. And here, the drummer creates a masterwork based on an acoustic-electric fabric of sound. While Living Together won't be considered a masterpiece of epic proportions, it is easily one of the top outings of the year.

Its impeccably rounded-out program highlights Uchida's strong compositional pen, and is designed with memorably melodic content. He triumphantly bridges that rather opaque perimeter that is framed upon hard-hitting jazz fusion, swing and radio-friendly contemporary jazz. An ace drummer who occasionally breaks out with sweeping polyrhythmic fills, the respective pieces span a gamut of emotive and thematic frameworks.

The opener, "Mother Sea," is constructed upon a simple yet entrancing Edgar Varese type theme, spiked up with Ben Sher's ethereal jazz guitar phrasings and James Cammack's monster bass lines. Each comp stands on its own, however. Uchida's arrangements feature peppy shuffle grooves, gradually ascending wing vamps and tuneful hooks. It's largely about the ensemble's acute placement of dynamics and warmly-crafted passages.

On "Dryads," the band executes a tender ballad that is notched up with Sher's distortion-heavy guitar voicings and toned back down by Eishin Nose's subliminally rendered synth swashes and keys. But variety plays an important role, as the drummer steers the group through fluid, Latin jazz motifs amid some blustery sax soloing by Sean Nowell. And they rock out via a commanding jazz fusion gait on the straight-head and hyper-mode "Torrent of Lava."

At the end of the day, we can only hope that Uchida pursues an active recording career. This is a standout effort that communicates the total package, and it would be a crime for this sparkling gem to go unnoticed. There's a lot for everyone here, whether they require a smooth transition or break-in period to become acclimated to the world of jazz, or are seasoned aficionados who cherish impressive chops coupled with a sense of endearment through an elevated example of compositional form.

Track Listing: Mother Sea; Beyond the Horizon; Cheers; Dryads; Dance While You're Still Here; Truly Untrue; Peaceful Eyes; Torrent of Lava; My Old Faithful; Living Together.

Personnel: Ben Sher: guitars (1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8); Eishin Nose: keyboards, piano (5); James Cammack: electric bass; Yutaka Uchida: drums; Sean Nowell: tenor and soprano sax (2, 6, 9, 10); George Dulin: piano; Danny Zanker: acoustic bass.

- All About Jazz


Living Together (CD, 2007)



Born in 1973 in Tokyo, drummer/composer Yutaka Uchida studied the basics of music and trained his ears through violin and piano lessons in his early years.

He started playing drums at the age of 16 and took intensive lessons with Norihiko Nara throughout his high school years, during which he was heavily into hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock from 70?fs and 80?fs. He encountered jazz, particularly big band music, as he enrolled in Rikkyo University and joined New Swingin?f Herd in 1992. He rapidly absorbed many styles from swing jazz to contemporary fusion and became the concertmaster in his junior year.

The gorgeous sound of big band roused his interest in arrangement and composition, and he decided to explore that route at Berklee College of Music, where he studied with many acclaimed composers such as Ken Pullig, Dick Lowell, Ted Pease and Steve Rochinski. He was awarded Berklee Achievement Scholarship Award in 1998 and 1999 for his course of study. He was also awarded the first annual Louie Bellson Award (established by Avedis Zildjian Co.) in 1999, in recognition of his outstanding performance as a drummer/composer.

He graduated Berklee magna cum laude, then moved to New York and started his professional career. As a versatile and creative drummer, he has performed with numerous artists from different genres at some of the most notable venues in and around New York such as: Jazz at Lincoln Center, Blue Note, Sweet Rhythm, Smalls, Joe?fs Pub, 55 Bar, Shanghai Jazz, Cornelia Street Café, Metropolitan Room, CBGB, CB?fs 313 Gallery, Knitting Factory, Cutting Room, Bitter End, Crash Mansion, Don Hill?fs, etc. His weekly appearance with Alan Rosenthal Trio, the hosting band for Sunday Open Mic at Cleopatra?fs Needle, a long standing jazz club on the Upper Westside, is now widely recognized. Other current projects he is involved with include a high-energy avant-garde jazz group Anti-Elevator Mission, urban pop/rock band Mascot?fs Distance, Japanese jazz/pop unit Love etc. and many more.

As a composer, he was awarded grants twice from Council on Arts and Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI) for his original works – Premier Grant in 2005 and Encore Grant in 2006 – and successfully held concerts at Greenbelt Nature Center.

His first CD ?gLiving Together,?h released in October 2007, features 10 original compositions of his, displaying his talent not only as a drummer but also as a composer, an arranger, a music director and a producer. It also features some of the finest jazz talents in New York, such as bassist James Cammack from legendary Ahmad Jamal trio; Danny Zanker, the leader/bassist of Anti-Elevator Mission; and pianist George Dulin, the ASCAP Young Composer Award winner. All About Jazz gave it a rave review saying, ?g?c it is easily one of the top outings of the year [2007].?h