Departure – Haruna Fukazawa
Haruna Fukazawa – Flute and Alto flute
Steve Wilson – Soprano sax and Flute
David DeMotta – Piano
Bill Moring – Bass
Steve Johns – Drums
Haruna Fukazawa is a New York-based flutist originally from Tokyo, Japan. She has been an active member of the American and Japanese musical scenes as a performer, composer, and recording artist for over a decade.
After graduating from Mushashino Academia Musicae in Japan, Haruna’s musical career started as a classical musician. Upon attending a performance by the great Oscar Peterson, Haruna decided to dedicate her life to jazz.
Haruna’s straightforward, joyful, and powerful playing style is inspired most by her legendary teacher and mentor Frank Wess. In 2009 she started visiting New York City regularly to study with Wess, and shortly after decided to move to New York to play jazz full-time at the encouragement of Wess.
Haruna’s first album as a leader was released in 2010. She has also appeared on many albums, TV and movie recordings as a sideman, and her career continues to evolve as she works in a variety of groups and settings. Of note is her involvement with Karl Berger’s Improvisers Orchestra, which won the Downbeat Critics Poll six times, and Patrick Brennan’s transparency kestra. She has performed in some of the most prestigious venues in New York City, among them the Blue Note, Carnegie Hall, The Stone, The 55 Bar, The Bitter End, Shapeshifter Lab, Joe’s Pub, and The Rubin Museum of Art. She performed at Trieste Summer Rock Festival in Trieste, Italy in 2010. It was the first time for a Japanese band to perform at this festival.
The Haruna Fukazawa Quintet performs regularly in New York City. Haruna also co-leads a chamber jazz trio called Jazz Triangle 65-77. The first Jazz Triangle album was released in 2017.
For a more modern take on jazz flute, check out the latest from the outstanding bandleader and composer Haruna Fukazawa, whose Departure is a fiery and brilliant take on modern straight-ahead jazz for the instrument. Here she leads a quintet that also includes saxophonist/flutist Steve Wilson, pianist David Demotta, bassist Bill Moring, and drummer Steve Johns. Fukazawa’s original compositions are especially impressive on this very fine outing and they fit snugly alongside standards like Horace Silver’s “Juicy Lucy,” Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing,” and Fain/Hilliard’s evergreen “Alice in Wonderland.” (Her arrangements of those tunes are outstanding as well.) Perhaps best of all is her warm, woody, swinging tone. This is one of the best jazz flute albums I’ve heard in a long time.
-Rick’s Pick for CD HOTLIST for LIBRARIES
From New York by way of Tokyo, this jazz flautist has a decade as a pro under her belt and she’s certainly one of the leading lights when it comes to polishing the big apple. Whether writing or interpreting, she has a great feel for the form and the music making a bright statement no matter where she points her flute. With smart instincts as a leader as well, this package is the package. Hot stuff that always hits the right notes.
-Midwest Record by Chris Spector
Fukazawa is a nuanced player but her strong rhythm section of pianist David DeMotta, bassist Bill Moring and drummer Steve Johns are intermittently overpowering. “Bassi Blues” is a case in point as overly heavy rhythmic punctuation occasionally jars its breezy flute leads. Beyond that, Wilson and Fukazawa showcase their bop chops throughout and the two in tandem are often thrilling. Their cover of Sammy Fain’s “Alice in Wonderland” pleasantly surprises as a fanciful flute/flute conversation, ending far too soon. Moring’s bow gives “I Wish You Love”, from the French singer/songwriter Charles Trenet, a novel intro before settling into fairly standard fare while Horace Silver’s “Juicy Lucy” receives a classically understated makeover courtesy of Fukazawa’s sweet interchange with Wilson’s soprano.
A fleet-footed “Cat’s Meeting” reveals Fukazawa to be a strong leader. A session highlight, the piece finds her assuming control from the start with a clear agenda and seeing the get-together through to a crisp conclusion. “No Fine Weather” closes out the set with by now trademark flute/saxophone voicings and solo jousting that Moring and Johns do not let stray off course. For a flutist to go head-to-head with a soprano saxophonist in a bop milieu takes a lot of guts and in those contexts and contests Fukazawa is exceptional. Her elegance and thoughtful arrangements are a welcome fresh voice to a scene that too often features heavy-handed solos and senseless speed.
-Elliott Simon for The New York City Jazz Record
Departure, from Haruna Fukazawa (Summit), is her first album released in the U.S. It features the Japan-born, New York-based flutist’s quintet, with Steve Wilson on reeds, David DeMotta on piano, Bill Moring on bass and Steve Johns on drums. Haruna and Wilson—who is always an asset, share a number of engaging solos. Her creative arrangements maximize the possibilities of the instrumentation, as when she plays alto flute and Steve joins in on soprano sax.
She’s especially adept at reimagining standards. Charles Trenet’s “I Wish You Love” follows an arc that rises from the verse voiced by arco bass and flute through the rhythm section-backed chorus from flute on the first 16 bars, soprano sax on the bridge, and flute and soprano on the final 8 bars. Solos from flute, soprano and piano follow over burgeoning rhythms, a climactic shout ensemble interlude and reprise of the melody. On Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing,” the refrain is largely carried by David as the flutes supply backgrounds and harmonies. Sammy Fain and Bob Hilliard’s “Alice in Wonderland” is a trio of flutes and bass, alto flute providing counterpoint to the lead, walking bass backing the flute solos.
Haruna makes astute use of broken and suspended rhythms, kickers and turnarounds to enliven three of her originals, including the scintillating album opener, “Contact” and “Cat’s Meeting,” with a flute-drums dialogue over accelerating tempo. The third, “No Fine Weather,” features chattering drums, rhythm breaks and impressive solos from Haruna, Steve and David. Except for crashing piano chords in the refrain, “Bassi Blues” is a nod to
Haruna’s American teacher, Frank Wess, whose flute was prominent in the New Testament Count Basie Orchestra. The track includes both flute and alto flute solos, with a “Count/Bass/Eee” piano phrase prominent.
This album affirms that a flute-led group can be as viable as more conventional front lines.
-Winning Spins By George Kanzler for Hot House Jazz Guide
Though I would love to sway to the bossa nova beat till dawn, our next performer has arrived from Tokyo. Though a native of Japan, flutist Haruna Fukazawa lives and performs in New York. At once modern and daring, her first US release Departure (2019) opens with “Contact”, a self-composed piece. “Contact” is just that, a few minutes of self before pulling back to past composers like Horace Silver or Billy Strayhorn.
What impressed me most about this album, was her intermingling of original and interpreted tunes. “I Wish You Love” written by French singer-songwriter Charles Trenet dives back into the 1930’s/40’s era. Meant to be sung, Fukazawa skillfully treats the piece with tenderness bordering on nostalgia. Not only does flute take the melody, but saxophone gives the musical stroll a lonely vibe. Though not a tear-jerker in any way, the idea of paying respect to past performers and pieces is all the more poignant alongside her own clever compositions.
The next track (if you weren’t convinced by my oh so excellent analysis) furthers her homage by being an homage to Count Basie. “Bassi Blues” moves the time period to the 50’s/60’s but keeps the flute lively and the piano supportive. Nothing lags, really, if anything it takes off midway. One always worries that albums containing songs over six minutes can get wearisome and bogged down in either redundant repetition or unceasing instrument solos (and if you’re a really unlucky ducky, both…). By speeding up the tempo to an allegro, the Basie homage keeps its previous energy without sinking into that sinkhole where more experimental Coltranes and Davises sometimes wind up. Be Warned!
Haruna Fukazawa finishes off her eight-track album with one of her own tunes, “No Fine Weather.” Unlike what the title suggests, there seems to be plenty of fine weather to be had (and heard…though fine weather is usually the silent kind). The song skips in a conservative way, ending on a wavery flute and percussion. Playing it safe, is sometimes smarter than going all out. As I was listening to Departure, I was reminded by a similar flutist, Magela Herrera. Her 2019 release Explicaciones did not catch my attention as Nidel or Fukazawa had, but there was a corresponding blend of new and old that. What makes the flute standout in the Jazz genre, I think, is the placing of it in either new technical spaces…