By Jacob Newman
Few albums better illustrate the magic of YouTube as a music platform than Hiroshi Suzuki’s Cat. Many of my friends have a running joke about YouTube ‘classics’. That is, albums that YouTube’s algorithm seems to favor, meaning that many people end up listening to an album that lived in relative obscurity outside of YouTube. Some Lonnie Smith albums have earned this distinction, an album by a group from Boulder called Rare Silk is often waiting in your recommended videos, and Gil Scott Heron’s “We Almost Lost Detroit” is a guarantee. Algorithms are sometimes problematic, and create a false sense of discovery. However, there is value. I would not have had the chance to hear this great album without the help of YouTube and its automated suggestions.
All of that aside, this is a tender and extremely moody album that transitions very thoughtfully from one song to the next. It is not Cool Blue in the traditional sense of the phrase, but it is sorrowful and pensive just as Somethin’ Else is. The title track is persuasive and light keys ride on top of swinging horns and gentle drums.
On “Kuro to Shiro”, things hasten, but even at a higher tempo the album is reserved and methodical. “Walk Tall” rises higher still, but there is remarkable consistently in Akira Ishikawa’s drum breaks. It is remarkable how many different places Hiromasa Suzuki can move on the keys. Of course, Suzuki’s trombone is the heart and soul of the record, but I am amazed by how well these musicians communicate.
Many jazz fanatics are well aware that Japan was (and still remains) a hotspot for tight, thoughtful, and majestic jazz music that rivals any of the great American and European standards. For beginners, YouTube is a great place to begin to delve into this rich tradition, and there are few better records to begin with than Cat.
“Kuro to Shiro”