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Naia Izumi, Fresh and Funky

By Marc Zisman |

We've awarded a Qobuzissime for the first album of a young soul songwriter, a real atypical guitar hero. The revelation of the summer!

Phenomenon alert! Behind the name Naia Izumi, hides a young, gifted son of the groove; a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist drawing his inspiration from the history of soul music but also from rock and jazz fusion. Diagnosed with autism at the age of 16, this Georgia native settled in California and quickly focused his attention on culture, reading dozens of books and learning several instruments, the guitar in particular. Notably, Naia Izumi won the Tiny Desk Contest organised by the channel NPR in 2018, attracting the attention of all the labels wanting to sign this out-of-this-world being with an endearing personality, capable of piloting the bass as well as the drums, the mandolin and even the koto (a plucked string instrument used in traditional Japanese music.)

And to make his world even more eclectic, Izumi cites the obvious influence of Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill and Musiq Soulchild but also, more rarely, of progressive masters King Crimson and especially jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, mastermind of Shakti and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. These influences leave marks on Izumi's music like ethereal chordal constructions and arpeggiated melodies that entwine with his ultra airy soul voice.

On the pyrotechnics side, Naia Izumi essentially practices the technique of tapping a string rather than strumming or plucking it on his Fender Jazzmaster '64. However all this complexity, both stylistic and instrumental, never prevents his music from remaining organic and sensual.

Everything is fluid on this just-released debut album, A Residency in the Los Angeles Area, deep even, if not downright graceful. A caress of laid-back groove to heal the wounds of the world.