"Yamamoto’s insistent rhythmic savvy [is] allied to a deep soulfulness. Bassist David Ambrosio once again demonstrates his keen melodic sensibility and propensity for surefooted commentary, while drummer Ikuo Takeuchi combines invention and drive into one elegant package."
–John Sharpe, The New York City Jazz Record
"4-Stars. Firefly reaffirms Yamamoto's standing as a contemporary pianist of the highest order. While [she] has a deft sense of harmony and note selection, not to mention sheer chops, her virtuosity never gets in the way of playing it straight from the heart."
–Daniel A. Brown, DownBeat
"[Her] trio has been together almost a decade and has levels of telepathy that are enviable. This is a band that consistently generates a sound of joy without falling back on many jazz clichés. It’s hard to imagine a jazz trio with more magic at its fingertips."
–Will Layman, PopMatters
"There are virtues in Yamamoto’s music that are rarely heard elsewhere. One is the depth of rapport with a rhythm section that has gigged with her regularly for over 13 years, making whole a steady stream of new compositions from her prolific muse. Another is Yamamoto’s ability to evoke ephemeral feelings and concepts with such precise intonation."
–Britt Robson, JazzTimes
"Eri Yamamoto, who gracefully bridges the worlds of postbop and free jazz, surveys her warm, evocative songs without words in the company of bassist Dave Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi on Firefly, her typically elegant and understated new full-length."
–Time Out New York
The deeply lyrical and prolific pianist/composer Eri Yamamoto returns to record with Firefly, an all-new collection of wholly original songs, this time performed live in intimate concert, with her decade-long devoted trio of bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi. Following so quickly on their previous acclaimed album, The Next Page (itself following In Each Day, Something Good and Redwoods), Yamamoto’s consistently luminous writing and the trio’s telepathic performances thereof, is at this point astonishing. The heft of emotional weight and remarkably honed craft once again on full display here is made all the more remarkable for their ability to make it sound so effortless.
This is Yamamoto’s first-ever live album, recorded in December 2012 at the piano showroom Klavierhaus in NYC by renowned jazz photographer and recording engineer Jimmy Katz. Communion with the audience suffuses the performances, and the band stretches out accordingly. Eri’s improvisations dive into and float atop the essence of her melodies and the rhythm of a larger collective heartbeat.
I'd like to note just a few highlights of this well-compelling program:
Hearkening back to childhood memories of catching fireflies with her grandfather, the title track opens with the Japanese folk song which they used to sing together while doing so. “Memory Dance” is profoundly beautiful and among the most moving songs written/performed in memory of fallen friends that we’ve ever heard. “Real Story” is a pedal-point gear-shifter, authoritatively driving and transportational, and one of my personal favorites. The importance of family, sense of place, and yes, fireflies, is reflected in the cover art by Eri’s nephew Leo Yamamoto. We’d like to make special note that her very gifted young nephew has painted the cover artwork for each of Eri’s four Trio albums on AUM Fidelity.
Writing on previous releases, critics have described the trio’s music as “beautifully telepathic and conversational” (Will Layman, PopMatters), “they conjure delicacy and beauty” (Bob Doerschuk, DownBeat), and “each musician is alert to the others felicities .. a wealth of musical detail to savor” (John Sharpe, All About Jazz). The BBC’s Bill Tilland adds, “Yamamoto has a lovely touch and an active musical imagination. Consequently, each piece shines with its own interior light.”
On “Memory Dance”, Eri writes:
“This is a happy song. One of my dear friends, Charlie, loved jazz, and in New York City you could find him almost anywhere that the music was played. He was so open to all styles; many musicians knew him. He passed away early last year; I was shocked when I heard the news, and couldn’t digest it. A few weeks later, on a night off from performing, I had a glass of wine by the window in my apartment. I thought about him and felt so sad. Then I closed my eyes and suddenly he was first in a line of all my friends and relatives who had passed. They were all dancing and circling around me. All of them were smiling, and I felt that they were cheering me up. So I opened my eyes, went to the piano, and wrote down the music they were dancing to.”
Eri Yamamoto's website: