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Music Review: Taeko Fukao – One Love

A second pot of java is on and the deep intense smell is wafting through the room. Breakfast is over and done and the lazy morning that begins what is apt to be a lazy day is fading. Given the slow gait of such a day, it seems more than idyllic to pop in Japanese songbird Taeko Fukao’s One Love. With her soothing vocals and beautiful range, Fukao is the ideal ingredient to help prolong the atmosphere.

Fukao is an astounding singer. She’s also someone who takes chances with her music and isn’t afraid to play with her own range on a record. Part of what makes One Love such a special album is her desire for variation. The songs flow together magically, yet are all very different experiences as Taeko plays with the boundaries of jazz and urban soul.

Born and raised in Japan, she came to New York City in 1998 with a strong fondness for jazz and dreams of expanding her career in music. Taeko studied with Juanita Fleming and Marion Cowlings and, through her rigorous study of jazz, learned to work with the nuances of her voice. That voice has earned her performances in some of NYC’s finest jazz clubs, including Blue Note and the Zinc Bar.

One of the first things that strikes me about One Love is the deepness and extent of the songbird’s voice. Taeko has remarkable range and vocal command, able to manipulate normal notes into tapestries of sound. She tempers deep soulfulness reminiscent of Anita Baker with sophisticated scatting a la Ella. The combination is a treat and never feels forced.

Bookended by two interpretations of Bob Marley’s “One Love,” Fukao’s record is a gorgeous journey of music. The album was recorded in three different sessions between April of 2006 and March of 2007, with each session using a different cast of musicians to keep things flowing. Her backing band is good, but never overpowers. One Love is all about Taeko’s vocals.

Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classic tune “Dindi” is given emotional treatment here, as Taeko’s seductive interpretation of the tune is an instant classic in and of itself. Other tracks display the Japanese songbird’s interpretations to epic proportions, including the striking and melodically impeccable “Would You Believe” and the fun “People Make the World Go Round.”

Pouring another cup of coffee, I realize that I’ve had this album on repeat for quite some time. It’s a bit of a gray day, but Taeko’s music has brought out a tiny sliver of sunlight. Or so it seems. As I listen to “Hoshi-no Love Letter,” a beautiful song in her native Japanese, it strikes me as to what makes this woman so special. Her charming approach to music and her ability to maintain her elegant culture while venturing into the art of jazz makes her one heck of a singer.

Beautiful ballads give way to ample scatting on songs like “It Could Happen to You.” Tender intimacy and seduction reside right along with wild-eyed humour, as One Love runs the gamut of jazz and urban soul without missing a beat. Taeko Fukao’s record is a radiant way to start the morning (or the afternoon substituting for morning) and makes for a brilliant addition to any music lover’s catalogue.

Taeko Fukao's album is available through CD Baby. Taeko Fukao's website is also helpful.

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