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Masabumi Kikuchi|Hanamichi

Hanamichi

Masabumi Kikuchi

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During his lifetime, pianist Masabumi Kikuchi developed an original, fiercely idiosyncratic style that relied not on technique but on finding and developing his "voice." Whether freely improvising or playing songs, he traveled so far inside the music, what he emerged with was singular, actually, other. He possessed a soft touch and kaleidoscopic harmonic sense, but did not swing. Kikuchi believed he was transmitting music, "floating," with limpid, resonant, notes and chords that emerged between carefully placed silences or erupted with chromatic, sometimes percussive dissonances. Bandleaders loved him. They hired him not for the way he interpreted their music, but for what he brought to it. Hanamichi was recorded in New York on a vintage Steinway piano by former ECM producer Sun Chung in 2013, less than two years before Kikuchi's passing at age 75. His reading of Mabel Wayne's wonderful "Ramona" from 1928 is a case in point. He plays its two opening chords with lilting clarity, yet immediately proceeds to stretch, reharmonize, and even dissemble the space before reaching for the melody, parsing its notes slowly -- there are seven seconds between the lyric's first two notes -- methodically playing to some inner time signature. He finds processional moments in the bridge and a lullaby in its final chorus. The lengthy reading of George Gershwin's "Summertime" offers a modal ostinato that disregards the harmonic scheme after briefly acknowledging it. Kikuchi creates stated and implied sounds out of the melody. He manipulates it comprehensively, moving across the piano's registers, altering notes, chords, and fragmented statements with his expert use of tremolo and sustain pedals. His applied dynamics distill and highlight the aria's original operatic drama to deliver it, albeit languidly, with surprising impact. There are two versions of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things." They were recorded on successive days and are radically different from one another. On the first, after establishing the melody, Kikuchi uses modality to extrapolate chromaticism; he rumbles into the lower register, reflecting the dramatic tension he discovers under the melody before climbing back into the light of its lyricism. On the second, he whispers it into existence spatially, using chords to discover and frame the elegance inside the melody and its nuances, slowly, methodically, and inquisitively working toward discovery. "Improvisation" offers a flurry of dense notes encountering, conflicting with, and elucidating each other in the creation of sound. Kikuchi manipulates his own individual statements comprehensively, employing the piano's middle register as a bridge for the emergent, sometimes angular, note choices. He closes with "Little Abi," written for his daughter and part of his live sets since the 1970s. Its gorgeous harmonies tease a lyric that underscores the emotional poignance of his affection and commitment to his subject. Hanamichi demonstrates Kikuchi's complex musical ideas via repetition, dynamics, and elastic rhythmic variation amid ever-shifting accents and tonal centers. It is in keeping with his aesthetic: His music emerges from an interior sound world to open in ours, illuminating it through his singular musical language.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo

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Hanamichi

Masabumi Kikuchi

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1
Ramona
00:06:38

Mabel Wayne, Composer - Masabumi Kikuchi, MainArtist - Gilbert Wolfe, Composer

© 2021 Red Hook Ltd. ℗ 2021 Red Hook Ltd.

2
Summertime
00:11:22

George Gershwin, Composer, Writer - Ira Gershwin, Composer, Writer - Masabumi Kikuchi, MainArtist

© 2021 Red Hook Ltd. ℗ 2021 Red Hook Ltd.

3
My Favorite Things I
00:05:08

Richard Rodgers, Composer, Writer - Oscar Hammerstein, Composer, Writer - Masabumi Kikuchi, MainArtist

© 2021 Red Hook Ltd. ℗ 2021 Red Hook Ltd.

4
My Favorite Things II
00:06:29

Richard Rodgers, Composer, Writer - Oscar Hammerstein, Composer, Writer - Masabumi Kikuchi, MainArtist

© 2021 Red Hook Ltd. ℗ 2021 Red Hook Ltd.

5
Improvisation
00:05:36

Masabumi Kikuchi, Composer, MainArtist

© 2021 Red Hook Ltd. ℗ 2021 Red Hook Ltd.

6
Little Abi
00:05:51

Masabumi Kikuchi, Composer, MainArtist

© 2021 Red Hook Ltd. ℗ 2021 Red Hook Ltd.

Album Description

During his lifetime, pianist Masabumi Kikuchi developed an original, fiercely idiosyncratic style that relied not on technique but on finding and developing his "voice." Whether freely improvising or playing songs, he traveled so far inside the music, what he emerged with was singular, actually, other. He possessed a soft touch and kaleidoscopic harmonic sense, but did not swing. Kikuchi believed he was transmitting music, "floating," with limpid, resonant, notes and chords that emerged between carefully placed silences or erupted with chromatic, sometimes percussive dissonances. Bandleaders loved him. They hired him not for the way he interpreted their music, but for what he brought to it. Hanamichi was recorded in New York on a vintage Steinway piano by former ECM producer Sun Chung in 2013, less than two years before Kikuchi's passing at age 75. His reading of Mabel Wayne's wonderful "Ramona" from 1928 is a case in point. He plays its two opening chords with lilting clarity, yet immediately proceeds to stretch, reharmonize, and even dissemble the space before reaching for the melody, parsing its notes slowly -- there are seven seconds between the lyric's first two notes -- methodically playing to some inner time signature. He finds processional moments in the bridge and a lullaby in its final chorus. The lengthy reading of George Gershwin's "Summertime" offers a modal ostinato that disregards the harmonic scheme after briefly acknowledging it. Kikuchi creates stated and implied sounds out of the melody. He manipulates it comprehensively, moving across the piano's registers, altering notes, chords, and fragmented statements with his expert use of tremolo and sustain pedals. His applied dynamics distill and highlight the aria's original operatic drama to deliver it, albeit languidly, with surprising impact. There are two versions of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things." They were recorded on successive days and are radically different from one another. On the first, after establishing the melody, Kikuchi uses modality to extrapolate chromaticism; he rumbles into the lower register, reflecting the dramatic tension he discovers under the melody before climbing back into the light of its lyricism. On the second, he whispers it into existence spatially, using chords to discover and frame the elegance inside the melody and its nuances, slowly, methodically, and inquisitively working toward discovery. "Improvisation" offers a flurry of dense notes encountering, conflicting with, and elucidating each other in the creation of sound. Kikuchi manipulates his own individual statements comprehensively, employing the piano's middle register as a bridge for the emergent, sometimes angular, note choices. He closes with "Little Abi," written for his daughter and part of his live sets since the 1970s. Its gorgeous harmonies tease a lyric that underscores the emotional poignance of his affection and commitment to his subject. Hanamichi demonstrates Kikuchi's complex musical ideas via repetition, dynamics, and elastic rhythmic variation amid ever-shifting accents and tonal centers. It is in keeping with his aesthetic: His music emerges from an interior sound world to open in ours, illuminating it through his singular musical language.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo

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