Flautist/composer Mayu Saeki’s debut recording, Hope, breathes and resonates with beauty and optimism. Hope tells the story of Saeki’s journey to NYC from her native Tokyo. There she left a complete life for an uncertain future in New York City.
Shortly after arriving, armed only with extensive classical training and mentorship, determination and hope, not to mention an abundance of talent, the opportunity presented itself to be a part of Chico Hamilton’s group.
She toured and recorded with Hamilton, appearing on several albums, including Revelation and Euphoric (both were released in 2011 from Joyous Shout! records), until his passing in 2013.
Hope from Brroklyn Jazz Underground Records feels like the fifth or sixth offering from a veteran on the scene. Saeki certainly had an advantage, recording with Aaron Goldberg, Joe Sanders, John Davis and Nori Ochiai (a former student of Goldberg’s and a fine modern jazz pianist in his own right), but her self-assurance comes across without dubiety.
Her solo on the title track bears a joyful swagger (immediately following a gem of a solo from Mr. Goldberg). Her playing, specifically the intro, solo and outro, on Soshu-Yakyoku are also moments to behold, as they encapsulate the sincerity and soul of this album.
And, her band mates are on board completely, and given ample space to express their brilliance. Check out Joe Sanders’ breathtaking playing on Do You Know, and behold drummer John Davis’ brilliant, flowing solo over the vamp of the same tune.
Goldberg is flawless throughout, but a highlight is his accompaniment and solo on the opening track, Dilemma. Libertango and Oblivion showcase Mayu’s classical training and her love for the music of Astor Piazzolla (with Oblivion displaying Mayu’s expertise on piccolo flute).