Review | Swing Cats “JAZZ-ON! Sessions「First Cats」”

jazz-on!

Swing Cats’ full band sound is exciting and fancy in “First Cats“. Their swing shines and the vocals show some promise.

JAZZ-ON! is a new 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.

Swing CATS consist of Yuki Yonai, Wataru Komada, Shunichi Toki, Toshinari Fukamachi, Genki Okawa, Makoto Ishii, Arthur Lounsbery and Shinichiro Kamio.


Title: JAZZ-ON! Sessions「First Cats」
Label: UNIVERSAL MUSIC JAPAN
Release date: 27/11/2019
Genre: Jazz

Tracklist:

1 - Are you with me?
2 - way to go
3 - SwingCATS Drama Tracks #1
4 - SwingCATS Drama Tracks #2

Track by track analysis:

1 – Are you with me?

Fast paced, ride-driven drums lead the way for “Are you with me?”, spreading the charms of big band swing jazz.

The piano melodies are sweet and playful, standing out with ease in this track while the bouncy contrabass sets a fast tempo for this track.

Trumpet melodies are the soul of this song, adding spice where needed and brightening the already fun mood going on.

Genki Okawa and Makoto Ishii are on vocal duty for this song, delivering quite the fast-paced and intense performance riding on top of their mid-to-high tones, which is an interesting contrast to the bassy instrumental yet a good complement to the brilliant trumpet melodies.

2 – way to go

Wrapping up this CD is “way to go”, song that puts on the spotlight a beautiful piano, painting its soundscape in a delicate way, slowly preparing itself for the entrance of the hi-hat drums and calm bassline.

The verses are introspective, with a certain melancholy on top, carrying those to the emotional chorus.

The highlights in this song are, by far the piano and drums solos. I’m a bit bias towards drums, as these are absolutely massive in jazz music, plus those have the wackiest rhythm signatures you can find, making them unpredictable from the very start.

The solo covered the whole drumset, with plenty of ride and hi-hat action in there plus a couple of rhythm and tempo changes going on that make it worth checking out again.

Of course, the piano also shines in this song. Given how quiet this one is in comparison with “Are you with me?”, I was expecting a slower solo but what listeners get on this one is fast and highly technical solo.

The vocals weren’t particularly striking for me, with only Yonai standing out positively, Fukamachi sounded awesome at times but whenever something a bit more demanding was there to tackle, he struggled to keep the same quality to his performance.

The whole cast of Swing CATS is confirmed to participate in the two drama tracks.


Final considerations

Swing Cats have a big band, swing jazz inspired sound which contrasts with Hoshikuzu Ryodan’s fast-paced bebop jazz.

Thus, from the start, fans know that this franchise is covering the two big jazz subgenres, with each group specializing in one or the other.

Swing Cats have their moments of brilliance like in “Are you with me?”, song that stood out for the sheer quality of the instrumental + the fancy trumpet solo in it.

Genki Okawa and Makoto Ishii (with whom I was not familiar with prior to listening to this CD) worked pretty well together, with their singing tones complementing each other’s while never missing a bit in that fast-paced environment.

way to go” changed things around and toned things down in this CD. Despite the outstanding drums and piano work, the vocals dragged the song’s quality down.

Toshinari Fukamachi and Yuki Yonai teamed up for this song. This isn’t a lineup I was particularly eager to listen to (I’m familiar with their work in Shinsoku Ikkon and Ra*bits respectively) however I was pleasantly surprised at times throughout the performance.

Yuki Yonai has good control over his vocals – something easily noticeable whenever he’s harmonizing with Fukamachi (who tends to wobble a bit in key) – and quite the good range and technique at his disposal.

His mid-tones are solid, he has some emotional range there and by the end of this song, he was the one that I was looking forward to impress me.

Toshinari Fukamachi is a mystery to me. At times, especially when he’s in his mid-to-low tones, he sounds really good. Whenever he has to climb on the scale, he starts to wobble and his singing goes all monotone.

In a music genre such as jazz, going monotone immediately kills the mood in the performance. Thankfully Yonai was there to cover for him but I found it really strange how, one second, Fukamachi sounds awesome, then in the other, he struggles to keep up.

All in all, Swing Cats’ full band sound is exciting and fancy, better yet when it is swing at their core, and the vocals show some promise.


JAZZ-ON! Sessions「First Cats」is not aavailable for pre-order at CDJAPAN.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Are you with me?
way to go
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Also, the only person managing everything The Hand That Feeds HQ related. In 2011, I stumbled upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus". Since then I have been writing about male seiyuu music. You may find me writing almost essays whenever music is really good (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). I also host the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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