Akuphone Rec. Chiemi Eri (2016)****'
I needt to mention this wonderful release, which shows a mixture of perfectly recorded ballroom jazz with Korean traditions in singing mixed with the more mambo-era related jazzy ballroom styled band arrangements. The combination does not create so much a dance era styled effect but a different sophistication of which its combination could contradict in rhythmic sensitivity, but which adaptations are beautiful to listen to, showing complexities in voice, a warm singing worth checking out. A classic if you ask me. Japanese CDs usually are so expensive this affordable re-release becomes a must-have. Comes with a small biography.
A magical mixture of traditional min'yo songs and Latin jazz elements. With it's second release, Akuphone continues to explore Asia with an original compilation of the work of Japanese singer Chiemi Eri, drawing upon 10s released by the Japanese King label between 1958 and 1962. Includes exclusive liner notes and a rich calligraphic booklet with Romanized lyrics. Chiemi Eri (1937-1982) grew up in a musical family and began a career as a singer on US military bases when still a teenager, becoming famous for her performances of classics from the American postwar musical repertoire. At the age of 14 she recorded the song Tennessee Waltz with King Records, which turned out to be the first of many successes. Chiemi Eri is one of the most famous Japanese singers of the 20th century, more precisely of the Sh'wa era (1926-1989) corresponding to the reign of Emperor Sh?wa, known outside Japan by his personal name Hirohito. Both a singer and an actress - she appeared in more than 50 films and many stage plays - Eri definitely made a mark on the Japanese postwar cultural landscape, along with fellow singer-actresses Izumi Yukimura and Hibari Misora (collectively nicknamed the three sisters). Their success can be connected to the cultural opening of Japan, which, although initiated a century before, accelerated with the US military occupation of the archipelago (1945-1952). This period saw the import of popular musical styles including jazz, bebop, swing, and mambo, as well as the development of the hybrid kay'kyoku style, a delicious mix of so-called Western music with Japanese music. The work of Chiemi Eri documented here combines vocal jazz, Latin rhythms, and Japanese folk in an original musical syncretism. Supported by Tadaaki Misago & Tokyo Cuban Boys, the oldest and most prolific Latin jazz group in Japan, Chiemi Eri sings themes, in Japanese, mainly taken from traditional folklore. Thus, the drums and brass of the Cuban arrangements are mixed with rich min'y folk songs, which celebrate every region, every local tradition, and every event with a particular song or dance. Chiemi Eri also reveals the vocal prowess specific to min'y, in particular the kobushi, a style of melisma (the technique of singing a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession). Somewhere between Ella Fitzgerald and Celia Cruz, Chiemi Eri can also be associated with Serge Gainsbourg, who yielded to the mambo revolution as soon as the late 1950s.
Other review: http://spectrumculture.com/2016/05/23/chiemi-eri-chiemi-eri/:
Akuphone’s reissue of music by Japanese actress-singer Chiemi Eri presents an intriguing cultural crossroads: based largely on traditional folk songs, many of the lyrics depict traditional Japanese life in the 19th century. However, the music revels in Western sounds from the mid-20th century.
Eri’s first success as a singer came when the 14-year old performed a version of “Tennessee Waltz” in both Japanese and English. That early hit, which liner notes explain sounded like like it was performed by a mature woman, isn’t included on this set. Chiemi Eri features material originally released on the Japanese King label between 1958 and 1962. The singer was barely out of her teens, but her rich voice carries these tracks with a wisdom beyond her years.
“Okosa-Bushi” opens the album with a brassy jazz fanfare, defiant timbres selling a melancholy tale about a man struggling with personal demons after World War II and finding solace the only way he can: singing in a bar. The album’s liner notes include lyrics with transliterations, but not with translations, so we are left with brief summaries to describe songs that often seem like tragic short stories. The brooding “Shinonome-Bushi,” named after a popular red light district, is a protest song that sides with legislation to outlaw prostitution. That hot house atmosphere continues on “Otemo-Yan,” a folk song updated with a brassy arrangement and Latinesque percussion that gives it a definite mid-century pop kick. Eri’s music clearly thrived on American influences, but it’s interesting how the lyrics suggest a nation licking its wounds after the war.
Eri’s keen sense of drama is highlighted on the ballad “Dodoitsu,” which originated in the early 19th century as a song performed by customers of a brothel in Nagoya. Her powerful voice evokes the sadness and exploitation of the brothel’s workers. The uptempo “Mamuro-Gawa Ondo,” on the other hand, could pass as a chase theme from a James Bond movie. The title translates as “Mamuro River Song,” and it’s another traditional source that gets a modern update with a percussive brass line. This music may all seem simply exotic to the Western listener, but imagine what it must have been like for the nation’s folk music to be transformed into such bold pop songs. If American folk music crowds felt betrayed when Bob Dylan went electric, one wonders what the response was to this even more revolutionary updating of the classics.
“Tabaru-Zaka” is one of the album’s most effective ballads, named after a park that would be used as a shooting location for The Last Samurai. The smoldering “Itsuki-No Komoriuta” is a lullaby about a poor nurse,and even though the lyrics provided are untranslated, you can hear the deep sense of loss in the singer’s deep, wavering voice.
Rock ‘n’ roll rhythm guitar starts “Yakko-San,” which dates back to 19th century street performers. Eri sang this updated version in the 1962 film Ginza Love Story. Like much of this album, this is swinging music with an air of sadness, but as her voice turns haughty you hear her sense of humor.
This well-paced album alternates uptempo numbers and ballads, and saves one of its most swinging numbers for the home stretch. A sinuous bass line opens the Latinesque “Kushimoto-Bushi,” about life in a fishing village. Despite that traditional subject, the track but which has shades of Cal Tjader’s Latin jazz smash “Soul Sauce” (recorded several years later — hmmm).
Akuphone’s first release, Lily Chao’s Chinese Folk Songs, featured a pop music that stayed close to the Taiwanese singer’s traditional roots. Eri wears her influences more boldly, and fans of pop music from faraway lands will enjoy this simmering blend of East and West.