Toru Dodo

(Jazzcity Productions)

Review by Brad Walseth

In a musical landscape filled with pianists who seem to have been cut with the same cookie cutter, it is a true pleasure to find someone who is forging their own original style. Toru Dodo may not be the next Thelonius Monk (yet), but he is developing his own unique and individual approach to the piano - one that is sure to enchant the discerning listener. His 3rd release - "DoDo 3" continues the artist's journey forward - and is a bewitching romp filled with luscious playing and a sly sense of humor.

Dodo is again presented in a piano trio setting, and his fellow players - Joseph Lepore on bass and Rodney Green on drums - seem well suited to assist the pianist in achieving his eccentric, but highly listenable works. The rollicking "R or B" opens with a bang - its' shifting rhythms creating a compelling musical landscape. Cedar Walton's "Bolivia" follows and pays tribute to Dodo's influences in a superb version of this classic tune. Another Dodo original - The humorously-titled "Boneless and Skinless" follows and again shows the pianist's unique compositional style - full of starts and stops and unusual changes. One is tempted to believe the artist's Oriental heritage has something to do with his off-center interval and chord choices.

Showing he can do it slow and soft as well, "Inside Bubbles" is a beautiful and haunting Debussy-inspired ballad, which in turn leads into the churning, up-tempo "NYUCS (New York Underground Car Service). "A Spiral Escalator" contains rising and falling motifs - giving the musical impression of riding such an imaginery contraption. Meanwhile, "Arabesque" sounds like what Chopin, Schumann or Debussy would sound like if they had worked within a jazz setting. In another nod to the great classical composers - "Giacomo Swing" is named after the Italian Opera composer Puccini and utilizes Lepore's bowed bass to nice effect. Another up-tempo number that features Dodo's unique innovative method on the keyboards, "Brush Pitch" also gives Green a fine solo spot on the drums.

The great standard "My Romance" is given loving treatment by the pianist, and he also covers a famous (in Japan) television animation theme song ("Sazae's Theme") - whose strong melody reminds us here in the West that we have much we could gain by opening up more to different cultures - like those of the Far East. Finally, the fun "T Dog's Theme" powerfully ends the album - again highlighting Lepore and Green's muscular playing beneath Dodo's "Monk-like" comping style and strangely delightful interval and rhythm choices.

Artful, and often playful in his approach, Dodo is always fascinating to listen to, and I would highly recommend this album to those who love piano music, but are tired of run-of-the-mill piano outings.

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