If you know anything about Neapolitan scales, deconstructed songs, or esoteric rhythm concepts, then you might like this self titled CD quite a lot. The band consists of Michiro Negishi-keyboards, John O'Reilly-bass and Stephen Zieminski-drumset, mallets, and tabla.
Some may recognize Stephen from the band Greylyng (see my review of Greylyng “I Keep Silence” on the related reviews link below). This is different than Greylyng in that it is even more complex and on the surface sounds more like an electronic classical jazz fusion band. It doesn’t take long to hear many more things happening, both style and structure wise.
There is no such thing as even the sniff of boredom on this recording. I did find one element similar to a composition or two in Greylyng that I mentioned in the ‘I Keep Silence..’ review. There is a tiny bit of Fuhrs and Frohling but it’s given a dose of speed and kicked into another couple of gears. Then at the drop of a hat, there they go into another entirely new rhythm and passage. And that passage leads to another quick change, and so on. The all instrumental format allows this to keep percolating in a forward motion. With lots of acoustic piano, drums, and bass, that dances some, runs some, then trots, and then walks to what you think will be the nearest exit, Otowala spin round and totally catch your predictions off guard. I find much of the music enhanced by mallet percussion that Zieminski plays along with Negishi on piano creating upbeat, happy little stories that give the listener a rest before the next tune makes you be at your most attentive (or you’ll miss something). There is a nice even use of both acoustic and electric instrumentation.
This being a trio, it’s never limiting. Otowala use so many different settings on keyboards and such a variety of textures, tones, and instruments in general, that it feels like the CD has many people playing on it. This is unconventional but it is great melodic avant fusion that has some heady writing skills. The Neapolitan scales that are used on a few of the songs, allow great use of minor chords and give root to the more eccentric structure you hear in the composition. John O'Reilly (bass) was educated at Berklee College of Music and wrote the cuts with those adventurous scales. Nothing matches high skill level and blood sweat and tears talent, and it’s a fact that all three members of Otawala have both qualities.
I hear so many possible references over the course of the CD and there is a lot going on, and so much ground covered on the recording. I hear small amounts of cool Canterbury flavors (Egg, Hatfield, even some late period Gong esp Pierre Moerlens’s Gong) along with intense jazz fusion with many twists (X-Legged Sally’s more acoustic work), oddball swing (Dave Brubeck feeling frisky), wonderful avant garde music in their own invented format, eastern jazz (nice tabla on track 10), easy jazz with marimba (Gary Burton) and a bowl full of too many fruits to taste on just one spin. So it was my pleasure to listen several times. I kept finding little tidbits I missed each time. So rich and dense is the way I’d best describe the offering overall. This goes into my personal music collection. Very Recommended!!
Reviewed by Lee Henderson on April 8th, 2012