Dancer in Nowhere

Dancer in Nowhere

Japanese-born, New York-based Miho Hazama’s 13-piece m_unit is both orchestra and big band—and something else entirely. To traditional jazz horns and rhythm she adds strings, vibraphone, and French horn; she bypasses both sentimental swing and highbrow experiments for dynamic original music so accessible that it somehow feels like you were born knowing it. Hazama's first two albums with m_unit established her compositional skill, and that applies here more than ever: There’s the grand statement of her horn arrangements on “Il Paradiso de Blues,” and her easy command of harmonic and rhythmic complexities on every track. On Dancer in Nowhere, though, she allows herself greater emotional range. Check how she transitions from a mellow, syncopated start to a go-for-broke finish on “Today, Not Today.” Every track packs drama and passion, and each composition seems to be scoring multiple climax scenes—an effect, no doubt, of her background arranging music for film and TV in Tokyo. A gorgeous album as bold as it is meticulous.

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