Night and Day (C. Porter)
Happy Toco members are deeply fond of George Gershwin and Cole Porter, two legendary composers of the US. The works of these two composers express the good old days and are filled with humor and warmth, which capture our hearts. As we plan to pick up Gershwin’s pieces in our 2nd album, this time, we have chosen two of Porter’s works. The songwriting for this piece, ‘Night and Day’ was done by Porter for the Broadway musical, ‘Gay Divorce’. “The sounds of Ray Conniff Singers have always been with me,” says Sakakibara, who has arranged this to a lively piece by displaying the various sounds of the piano.
Garota de Ipanema (A.C. Jobim)
According to Sakakibara, “There are probably tens of thousands of people who have played ‘Garota de Ipanema’, but to me, the most startling arrangement was by the Zimbo Trio (a major jazz samba piano trio set up in 1964 in Sao Paulo, Brazil). ‘Garota de Ipanema’, from the title, has a gentle image, but this arrangement had an underlying passion and emotion of the samba. I have played this with my deep respect.” Surely, the arrangement is heart-quickening and brilliant. Please enjoy the trio arrangement! It is said that Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes got the image of this piece from a lady who could be seen from Bar ’Veloso’ which stood on the path towards the Ipanema Shore in Rio de Janeiro. After the great hit of this piece, the bar changed its name to ‘Garota de Ipanema’ and is still in business. Although we know that the atmosphere Jobim felt is no longer there, the place is still very attractive.
La Fiesta (C. Corea)
La Fiesta, meaning ‘Festival’ in Spanish, this piece is performed by Happy Toco on special stages. Kishikawa says, “I can’t resist the excitement when the piano’s introduction starts. Our version is more powerful than the original, and at times, with inner passion. My impression of this piece is that inspired by the melody of the violin and piano, everyone starts to dance.
Luiza (A.C. Jobim)
Sakakibara clearly mentions that this is one of the five masterpieces of all music, which exceeds categories such as ‘Jobin’ or ‘bossa nova’, moreover, ‘classical music’ or ‘western music’, and I (Sato), agree with that. When playing this piece, I feel grateful for the most beautiful sceneries set before myself, or, as if the sad feelings are soothed between the notes. This piece was made for a TV drama in Brazil, but Jobim's music is so clear that it feels as if things such as the forest, whisper of winds by the leaves, and waterside are right next to you. It is said that Jobim knew the names of all the living creatures in the forest, which makes him unique not only as a musician but also as a person.
Bolero (M. Ravel)
As you may well know, the original of this piece has an ultimately simple structure with the same rhythm repeating itself while the only 2 melodies gradually crescendo. The rhythm and theme do not change, develop or convert, and the only thing that changes is the instruments which play the melody and the volume of the music. How did we perform this piece…?! The violin played the melody 7 times and Kishikawa hit the drums continuously as if in some kind of mind training which also made us think that perhaps Ravel was a pioneer of beat-in music. Iwaya also silently continued to play. On the other hand, the piano was like a merry-go-round at times or a clown bursting in…! According to Sakakibara, “In Europe, classical music is not positioned as a ‘refined’ or ‘elegant’ type of music like in Japan, but has a more formless atmosphere which is rooted in the different ethnic groups. I believe that there is a deep passion of the ethnic groups which have repeatedly fought with each other in the past. ” Without darkness or heaviness, those kinds of feelings are lightly and playfully composed in this arrangement with fun and tricks like Mozart was fond of!”
Giant Steps (J. Coltrane)
In this piece, Coltrane did 10 modulations in one chorus using major 3rd, which was not in conventional jazz. “The challenge this time was how to keep the tension during this recording,” says Iwaya. For Iwaya, who specializes in the so-called jazz, this piece was where he can show his best in the lineup. Nonetheless, Sakakibara decided to change the time signature because the structure was simple despite the difficulties to perform this piece. In turn, Iwaya says, “The code changes made me dizzy not to mention this rhythm…”
Englishman in New York (Sting)
“As Gershwin wrote ‘An American in Paris’ when he first went to Paris, perhaps Sting strongly felt the urge to write something when I picture the mixed atmosphere of NY,” says Sakakibara. “I tried to play this with an English gentleman’s ambience, but was unsuccessful,” says Kishikawa. Although it is not in the original, we included in the interlude, the sounds of a police car which run in Sting’s hometown of England. We didn’t forget to use panning and Doppler effect for this…!
Begin the Beguine (C. Porter)
We chose another piece of Porter, Begin the Beguine. ‘Beguine’ is a dance and rhythm of Martinique Island, which is located in the West Indies of the Caribbean Sea. This was sung in the Broadway Musical, ‘Jubilee’ and became a great hit along with the beguine rhythm. It was taken up by Artie Shaw as well as other jazz musicians and is loved by many. “How intense the Latin rhythm may be, there is a laid back atmosphere in it and when I am playing this piece, I feel like meditating…,” says Sakakibara. I recall he was swaying back and forth with eyes closed…!
Stairway to Heaven (J. Page/R. Plant)
In history, Led Zeppelin is known as hard rock / heavy metal but Robert Plant (vocal) was oriented in Celtic music and Jimmy Page (guitar) was fond of folk music. They introduced traditional music of the Middle and Near East as well as elements of folk music in rock and used instruments with bold arrangements. This was apart from the Beatles’ theory but was a band that widely expanded rock music. Stairway to Heaven is a masterpiece symbolizing the diversity of Zeppelin music. Incidentally, the famous Karajan commented that if he were to arrange this piece, it would have turned out the same. We also traced the performance of Led Zeppelin. In doing so, the sound of the guitar solo part played by the violin is modified. The recorder is played by Sakakibara and Kishikawa.
Czardas (V. Monti)
Today this is a standard violin number, but was originally a piece for the mandolin. Monti was a violinist and played this piece from those days. There are quite a few versions of Czardas, including Mark Rozsavolgyi’s, but Monti has skillfully introduced Hungary’s Czardas style into this masterpiece and it is now essential in the gypsy band’s repertoire. Whenever I play this piece I turn my thoughts over to the paths that the gypsy’s have followed. I think of what the violin meant to them. Please enjoy Happy Toco’s Czardas.
Chovendo na Roseria (A.C. Jobim)
Jobim said, “All of my works are inspired by the forests in the Atlantic”. He was always searching for the ‘essence’ or the universal, such as ‘Where is the world heading to?” or “What is life about?”. His music shows unfathomable depth, yet it can be the best BGM with lightness and grace. His music can entertain his fans in any way, and we, Happy Toco, also hope that our music can be enjoyed in this way!
text by Satoko Sato, translated by Kiyoko Watanabe