December 30, 2005
Buy at Sweep Records
When it comes to Hiroto Saitoh’s original albums, Retrospective Blue offers some new things in terms of musical styles, while still retaining that jazz sound. Does this approach fall flat or does Saitoh maintain his consistency for strong jazz based themes?
Opening the album, “Continental Wind” is one of my favorite pieces on the album. It features a fantastic R&B-like beat and a fantastic fusion between Asian, electronic, and jazz soundscapes. The main woodwind melody is both mysterious and invigorating and, combined with the electronic/jazz passages, makes for an extremely entertaining listen. The title track, “Retrospective Blue,” is another fantastic arrangement featuring a jazz/funk/Asian influence mixed with some nice ethnic percussion, some DJ scratching, and a fantastic techno beat. Overall, it’s a bubbly theme with a ton of class and a stunning, catchy melody. It never ceases to amaze me how well jazz mixes with a variety of other styles.
“Raga-Matrix” is another ethnically infused jazz piece. It has a very Middle Eastern sound to it and it’s easily my favorite piece on the entire album. I love the exotic vocals throughout the piece and they really help elevate the exoticism of the entire composition. The heavy techno beat is also a nice touch and really contrasts nicely with the playful jazz melodies. “Dissonance,” featuring spoken word performed by Nima, is an interesting fusion of smoky jazz, dissonant strings work, and a pretty funky beat. It’s the most experimental piece on the album and I think it is quite successful.
“Reflection” opens up with some spoken word and it’s clear from the beginning that this is going to be a heavily jazz based piece. Featuring a vocalist named Kiyomi, it’s an entertaining vocal piece with an exciting rhythm and some beautiful jazz piano accompaniment. There are also some stunning jazz flute passages and a bit of a hip-hop influence at times, although that’s mainly in the form of some scratching techniques thrown in every once in a while. Lastly, the album closes with “Long Caravan.” This one is also an ethnic-based piece that has a bit of a tribal/Celtic fusion going on. I really like the tribal percussion featured throughout the piece and the Celtic soundscape, when featured. For the most part though, this theme is more in line with the progression of “Continental Wind.” It features a fantastic beat and rhythm, some subtle, but empowering choral accents, and superb energy. Out of all the themes, this is the one with the least, if any, amount of jazz influence.
When it comes to the various fusions of styles featured on this album, I really think Hiroto Saitoh nailed this one out of the park. The worldly flavors featured on the soundtrack are truly the strong point and really help take this from “just another jazz album” to something much more unique. In the end, this is a strong offering and one that shouldn’t be missed if you are a fan of jazz/ethnic fusion.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.