Give them a taste of something familiar, then surprise them with the unknown. That seems to be the approach saxophonist Tsuyoshi Niwa takes with At the End of the Day (2013).
The supporting cast for this effort are Randy Brecker, trumpet and flugelhorn; Yuichi Inoue, piano; Phil Palombi, acoustic and electric bass; and Billy Kilson, drums. Niwa plays soprano saxophone and flute.
The classic “My Favorite Things” begins with a moody, off-the-beaten path take on the melody. That’s just to give the song a somewhat familiar foundation. Niwa and Brecker then lick their chops as each takes off on a riveting adventure. Not to be outdone, Inoue also scores. Though Kilson doesn’t have a solo, his workout on the kit cannot go unnoticed.
After that, it’s five songs composed by Niwa. Each track is upwards of nine minutes, so don’t expect anything that fits the mainstream.
“I Miss the Idea of Her” is a melancholy piece that’s performed like a symphony without strings. The pace is like a slow waltz. Listen for Palombi and Kilson show off a little in the background. As with the other songs, it’s mostly about the horn leads with piano underscore. Mostly. Inoue does get his chance to stretch out.
Niwa was born in Tokyo in 1972. He had easy access to art and technology as a child. Both a computer technician and an artist, Niwa picked up his first horn, a trumpet, at the age of 10 – the same time he mastered his first computer language: BASIC. He began playing jazz at 15. After moving to New York, Niwa worked as a food analyst for a Japanese noodle company – by day. And at night, he played with a jazz quartet which featured such musicians as Robert Glasper and Otis Brown III.
At the End of the Day is Niwa’s testament to his travels and experiences.