JAZZ-ON!’s “Tone of Stars Alpha” has an ambitious set of songs, a couple of good vocal performances, and a whole lot of jazz to enjoy.
JAZZ-ON! is a Jazz music project created by Akatsuki Inc. To get to know better about the story and each group including key visuals and first song previews, check THIS article.
Hoshikuzu Ryodan consist of Makoto Furukawa, Yoshiki Nakajima, Kento Ito, Yoshiki Murakami, Haruki Ishiya, Kengo Kawanishi, Takeaki Masuyama and Shun Horie.
SwingCATS consist of Yuki Yonai, Wataru Komada, Shunichi Toki, Toshinari Fukamachi, Genki Okawa, Makoto Ishii, Arthur Lounsbery and Shinichiro Kamio.
Title: Tone of Stars Alpha Label: UNIVERSAL MUSIC JAPAN Release date: 24/02/2021 Genre: Jazz
1 - Tone of Stars Alpha 2 - As Is 3 - STAY HERO 4 - 音のないオブリガート -1- [DRAMA PART] 5 - 音のないオブリガート -2- [DRAMA PART] 6 - 音のないオブリガート -3- [DRAMA PART]
Track by track analysis:
1 – Tone of Stars Alpha
Making a mellow entrance, “Tone of Stars Alpha” brings unpredictability to the spotlight through multiple changes of tone and tempo.
On a first listen it seems like you’ll be in for an acoustic track but things change past the intro.
The verses are quiet to some extent, with acoustic guitars and drums painting the background however, for the pre-chorus trumpets, trombone and bass make their entrance to add more color to the song.
Piano melodies join in in the second verse, adding a delicate touch to this song and making a welcomed contrast to the instrumental’s clear deep, bassy sound.
The chorus is a bundle of fun, with drums creating a Latin-inspired rhythm that is infectious.
Listeners can expect a fantastic improvisation section in which saxophone, piano, bass, drums and acoustic guitars go wild.
On vocal duty for this song are Makoto Furukawa, Shun Horie, Yoshiki Murakami and Takeaki Masuyama.
The quartet has a lot of depth, covering a wide vocal range thanks to Furukawa and Horie, covering the extremes of the vocal range and Masuyama and Murakami at center, expanding that coverage.
As a result, you find a performance in which all members have the spotlight and they are easy to tell apart within the group when in unison in the chorus.
One thing that doesn’t really sit well with me are those “drama” parts in the middle of what is a glorious instrumental section.
Those drama parts/lines may give off the feeling that the characters are talking to each other while playing (if that was the intention, may it would have been best to work the vocal parts in a different way in mixing as they ended up being in the same place in the soundscape).
However, for someone listening to the music – with no knowledge or interest in the story – it is distracting to say the least.
2 – As Is
“As Is” brings longing blues-inspired guitar riffs in its intro, setting a dramatic tone.
The verses are slow-paced, with a big focus on carrying a lot of emotion for the vocals to capitalize on it.
Guitars cry in the background, delivering a masterful performance throughout – and even delivering a solo that will make chills run down your spine -, drums are soft, piano melodies are dramatic and the bass is barely noticeable, standing in the background as a way to enhance the bass drum in the drums.
The song includes a second guitar solo but in a battle with piano and drums – that also get their spotlight – which is a nice touch.
Now, where things get underwhelming is on the vocal end.
The Yonai – Murakami duo lacks power and emotion at all times. Yonai is solid by himself but he’s not the type of singer to belt or delivering powerful heartwrenching performances. The same can be said of Murakami.
Yet, both had the challenge of performing a song that required a lot from their emotional range yet… there was barely any power in their performance. The performance although not weak, felt bland.
3 – STAY HERO
Wrapping up this release is “STAY HERO”, song performed by Wataru Komada and Takeaki Masuyama.
You can feel some melancholy in this song, with rhodes piano and organ melodies fleshing out that vibe. In the background, a contrabass adds rhythm to the song, supporting the slow-paced, ride-driven drums.
There are some details in this track with occasional vibes melodies enriching certain parts in this song.
The verses flow in that comfortable tempo towards the open chorus. “STAY HERO” counts with 2 solos, the first one features the rhodes piano and the second one the trombone. Both sections breathe life into this song.
On the vocal end we have Wataru Komada and Takeaki Masuyama delivering a solid performance.
Komada got plenty of lyrics in English to perform – the intro and outro lines – which he nailed. At the same time, he was harmonizing with Masuyama, delivering his solo parts with a lot of emotion while sounding comfortable at all times.
Masuyama continues to surprise me with the control he has over his vocals, once again delivering a strong performance with a lot of flair.
“Tone of Stars Alpha” is a CD of ups and downs.
Some ideas ended up being quite strange – some may say even “off putting” – like the drama lines in the middle of a solo section in “Tone of Stars Alpha” (the song).
Others were interesting, in this case the blues elements in “As Is” or even the melancholic tone in “STAY HERO”.
This single caters to fans of Latin jazz, Jazz blues, and pure mellow jazz. So there’s a lot of variety to choose from, especially if you’re really particular about the sub-genre of jazz you like.
On the vocal end, there are some hiccups. “As Is” is a song that demands a powerfully emotional performance but it didn’t get one. Yonai and Murakami are solid singers but they lack a lot when it comes to delivering an emotional performance. You notice that when listening to the song. Their vocals are nowhere near the emotion in the instrumental.
“Tone of Stars Alpha” is a bloody amazing song but those random drama lines in the middle of the chorus were off-putting and didn’t really up the enjoyment you’ll get off of listening to it. If you put those aside, then you have an awesome performance by the quartet.
“STAY HERO” was the most leveled out of all 3 performances. Komada and Masuyama worked really well together, showcasing a lot of control over their singing tones, being consistent throughout while never forgetting to add feeling to their performances.
All in all, JAZZ-ON!’s “Tone of Stars Alpha” has an ambitious set of songs, interesting plays with some solos or choruses, a couple of good vocal performances, and a whole lot of jazz to enjoy.
Tone of Stars Alpha is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.