Flute is my thing, so when I learn about new flutists on the scene I always head out to check them out. Yukari has been around for a while and has actually produced several CDs under her own name (the latest one, Dreams, is just about to be released and features recording artists such as Greg Osby). I’ve heard her play in bands and in a private party. Recently I’ve also come to know her personally. However, I had never heard her own band live before I listened to her at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn last month. It has to be said that she is very versatile and plays many kinds of music—from jazz to pop to classical—so the Brooklyn performance was but one example of her many sides.
The Tea Lounge in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighbourhood is an eclectic place with a variety of comfy sofas for folks to lounge in and a well stocked bar (‘tea’ in this case has to be understood more broadly than just referring to the stuff brewed from the leaves of the evergreen bush grown in Asian highlands). When I entered from the rain outside, the place was already crowded, so I settled into the bar to wait for my buddy Nanthi to arrive. Not all people in the spacious joint were there for the musical experience, but as the evening wore on I noticed that a solid following had gathered at the back of the room where the band would play.
Tonight’s band consisted of a trio, with Yukari on the flute, Mike Pride on drums and Peter Bitenc on double bass. The two lengthy sets remained interesting throughout despite the limited instrumentation and no-one providing chordal accompaniment. This of course is testimony to the creativity of the players. Yukari herself is a highly skilled flautist. Since moving to New York from her native Japan, Yukari studied at the Manhattan School of Music and has played with many of the city’s premier young jazz players.
The repertoire of the evening ranged from free improvisation to be-bop tinged contemporary pieces. Most were Yukari’s own compositions, although one or two standards made it into the mix, including one Ellington ballad, which showcased the flutist’s beautiful sound. The mood in the dimly lit cozy café was warm and enthusiastic as the audience witnessed the performance of this highly original new force in jazz flute.