Album: For 2 Akis

Artist: Shinya Fukumori Trio

Label: ECM

Release Date: February 16, 2018

The Upshot: Bandleader and drummer Fukumori steers the group all too often into background music territory.


Drummer-led jazz groups often turn on the leader’s percussive abilities – not so much in the case of drum solos, but in arrangement driven by rhythm. The Shinya Fukumori Trio, however, takes a different tack. Drummer and chief composer Fukumori formed the band to get away from more traditional jazz and into something more ethereal, and with For 2 Akis, his first album as a leader, he succeeds. Accompanying saxist Matthieu Bordenave and pianist Walter Lang, the formally educated drummer puts his cymbals and snare in the background, sometimes so far back they’re more felt than heard. Bordenave takes the lion’s share of the melodic work, as Lang mostly provides lushly painted backdrops for the horn man to apply flourishes. Unsurprisingly, the tunes err on the sweet side, often to the point of bordering on new age music. But when Fukumori asserts himself, the threesome strikes a balance between sentimental songsmithery and improvisational brio – check “Spectacular” or the two-part “Light Suite” for the band at its best. Most of the album, though, sits in a zone somewhere between light classical and background music, which is probably not the place Fukumori intended it to be.

DOWNLOAD: “Spectacular,” “The Light Suite,” “Émeraude”

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