DVL Audio Album of the Month for July – Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio

This is the first in a monthly series of album reviews I will be doing for DVL Audio here in Canada. I’ll be heading out to a local record store in Vancouver, digging through the bins, and coming up with an intriguing LP to discuss here on Part-Time Audiophile. I’ll never go out with something in mind beforehand, and there is no criteria for whether it’s a new album, an old album, an out-of-print LP, electronic, classical, jazz, punk – whatever – it just has to sound good to me.

I’ll come up with as much of the backstory as I can research, and include a small audio sample for listening. I hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as I enjoy doing them.

–Rafe Arnott

A nice way to spend an afternoon: Dedications.

Toshiko Akiyoshi. Toshiko Akiyoshi.  Toshiko Akiyoshi.

I kept saying the name over, and over in my mind as I looked at the faded LP cover in Audiopile on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, but I was drawing a blank. I knew of several Japanese composers, and musicians (Yukiko Ito, Isao Tomita, Mitski Miyawaki, Daisuke Tanabe) but had never heard of Akiyoshi.

My bad.

Innocuous cover it may be, but don’t let that fool you.
The Album of the Month is brought to you by DVL Audio.

Not only is Akiyoshi the first woman who was voted Best Arranger, and Composer in Downbeat Magazine’s Readers Poll, she’s a 14-time Grammy nominee. Oh, and in 2007 was listed as a Jazz Master by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts.

None of this I knew when I added the 1979 Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio album Dedications to my growing pile of LPs, and CDs that I had amassed that afternoon. A quick listen on an old turntable at the back of the shop confirmed that the LP was in near-mint condition, and very quiet in the groove. But it also revealed promising musical composition in its choice of material, meaty dynamics (a very well-cut album in my opinion), and a smokey jazz-club vibe I was digging. It ended up being the only vinyl that came home with me that day.

The album is on the Inner City Records label. A little online research revealed they put out more than 60 albums between 1976 – 1980 (mostly jazz re-issues with hitters like Nat Adderly, Clifford Brown, and Chet Baker), and which the International Jazz Critics Poll voted Record Label of the Year in 1979.

Time to drop the needle.

I gave the LP jacket a wipe down with a damp cloth to remove some questionable sticky residue, grabbed a fresh inner sleeve, and ran the album through my record cleaning machine before dropping it on my review turntable of the moment – the Pro-Ject RPM9 Carbon  – and spinning up the platter. As soon as the stylus of the Sumiko Blackbird low-output cartridge hooked into the lead-in groove, and the first notes of Miles Davis’ “Solar” came through the system, I knew I was in for a fun listening session.

The cast on this LP is listed as a trio, but it actually consists of two drummers, and two bassists. Akiyoshi uses bassist Bob Daugherty, and drummer Jimmy Smith on the A-Side for the cuts “Solar” (Miles Davis), “Swinging Till The Girls Come Home” (Oscar Pettiford), and “Israel” (John Carisi). Bassist Andrew Simpkins, and Peter Donald on the skins take over for the B-Side on “Two Bass Hit” (John Lewis – Dizzy Gillespie), “Enigma” (J.J. Johnson), “In Your Sweet Way” (Dave Brubeck), and “Tempus Fujit” (Bud Powell).

Sounding like a mono tape pressing.

Recorded Audio Sample above…

There’s a lot of obvious interplay between musicians on every cut, with some great improvisation, and riffing going on from everyone on pretty much every cut. You could tell they were jamming on this LP, and getting into it with several “oh yeahs,” and “uh-huhs,” as well as a lot of scat, grunting, and hollering throughout a number of solos which gives the takes a real live feel. Aimee Chiariello is credited with handling the tape duties for the album, but I’m not sure if she mic’d the studio up herself, or had help because the tone, spaciousness, and 3D-placement of the players is shoveled pretty-much down the middle on my system a lá mono recording. It’s obvious that it is a stereo recording, with piano, and bass spillover into either channel which puts the players (piano right), and bass (left), but it’s got that early-jazz-recording-in a-small-club feel to it that makes you lean in, and pay attention to what’s going, which I love.

Deep tuneful grooves.

This is a lively LP, with an aural wave to the tempo that takes the listener on a ride which reminds me of a live venue as opposed to the studio, so I tip my hat to the musicians, the engineer(s), and the mastering crew who handled the pressing because this is a sweet, little gem of an LP that I would recommend tracking down online, or if you’re like me, dig out at a local record shop. This album has piqued my interest in the Inner City label, so I think I’ll be looking for more of their vinyl.

–Rafe Arnott

 Associated equipment for listening session:

About Rafe Arnott 389 Articles
Editor of InnerFidelity and AudioStream


  1. She is a real talent and her music is amazing – “+2” on the comment to go out and discover her work with the big band format. Absolutely exciting, blazing fast work.

  2. I love Toshiko, I pick everything I see of hers. If you think her trio is great, wait until you hear her big band with Lew Tabackin. Road Time, Long Yellow Road, Salted Ginko Nuts, Farewell, so many great LPs from the 70s and 80s. Some of the labels she recorded on, I’ve never heard of and look a bit low rent, but the music and, generally, the sound are fantastic. Can’t recommend her enough, I pick up multiple copies of her stuff so that I can share with friends.

  3. Thanks, Rafe. I’d never heard of her either. Good catch! Always a pleasure to learn of a new artist. She’s a surprising presence on YouTube. Sound quality varies with each clip. Interesting interviews too.

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