Someone who attempts to sing in a language (s)he hasn’t grown up with is brave; someone who ventures into the well-established classics of “the great American songbook” — with all those monumental icons standing at the rear of the stage — must be even more courageous. Happily, the young Japanese singer Asako Takasaki is buoyed by the music and unfazed by what others might see as obstacles. All of this is evident on her debut CD, ALL OF ME. Here’s a video introduction to it, and to her — and to her colleagues, Michael Kanan (piano); Neal Miner (string bass); Michael Petrosino (drums):
Now, will Asako obliterate the memory of Frank, Billie, Peggy, Lena, Sarah, or two dozen others? Not yet. But she is well on her way to being a classic interpreter of these great human texts, and I applaud her efforts. Her voice gentle and unaffected, Asako easily seeks out the small dramas found in each song — tenderness, exultation, regret, wonder — and the songs are enriched rather than deformed: IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME / ALL OF ME / BLUE SKIES / A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN BERKELEY SQUARE / COME RAIN OR COME SHINE / CRAZY HE CALLS ME / I CAN SING A RAINBOW / MEAN TO ME / NIGHT AND DAY / LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING – MIAGETE GORAN YORU NO HOSHI WO / THEM THERE EYES. On this CD, Asako has the wise subtle assistance of three of the best musicians playing — who motivate her as they direct and caress these songs.
She is worth more than a casual listen, and I predict great things for her — she respects the songs and understands their meanings, no small accomplishment. And bless her for having the courage to sound like herself, rather than attempting to ‘become” Billie or Frank in tribute to their memories: she sings the songs with light-hearted feeling, certainly commendable in itself.
May your happiness increase.