Review by Brad Walseth The December release, "Tradewind," from the subscription-based Chicago Sessions label, features local bassist Steve "Hash" Hashimoto leading his Mothra group through nine of his compositions, as well as two written by Oak Park composer John R. Lewis. Mothra utilizes many of the same musicians as play with Hash in his "Suenos" Latin band, drummer Heath Chappell, guitarist Neal Alger and reed players Dan Hesler and Michael Levin, adding vibraphonist Kathy Kelly, but the music here moves in a distinctly different, though no less rewarding direction than the well-received Suenos unit. (See our review of Suenos' Azul Oscura here here).
"Eloise," a song that Hashimoto says is the first song he ever wrote that he considered "a composition," according to the highly entertaining and informative liner notes by Neil Tesser (alone almost worth the price of the CD), starts things off brightly, with Alger soloing over the rockin' rhythm section of Hash and Chappell. Kelly's delicious vibes add the additional flavoring to take the overall sound into savory category. The members play with the confidence built from the familiarity of playing together over the years and the results are outstanding.
The rest of the album follows suit with this formula: an in-sync piano-less rhythm section with guitar, a wide range of reeds and Kelly's vibes which also allow for inventive and satisfying solos from all involved. There is a slight Asian-tinge to the writing, and the overall sound is consistent, but styles do shift from burning ("Woikin' Wit' Mr. Poikins," "Control Freak") into a quieter and more contemplative vein ("Haiku," "Samsara") with nods to straight ahead jazz ("Farewell to Manzanar," "Barely Blue"). Throughout, the music is performed in a compelling manner that should please fans of Hashimoto's group as well as newcomers. The blend of well-written compositions, highly talented players who have worked together and a warm and clean recording add up to an album well worth owning in your collection.