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Taeko Appearing at the Cape May Jazz Festival Friday, November 12th 9pm-1am Carney’s Other Room

November 9, 2010

  To: Listings/Critics/Features
From: Jazz Promo Services
Press Contact: Jim Eigo,

Appearing at the
Cape May Jazz Festival
Friday, November 12th   9pm-1am
Carney’s Other Room
411 Beach Avenue, Cape May, NJ
TEL: (609) 884-7277

Taeko, Vocal
Lou Rainone Piano
Gaku Takanashi, Bass
George Gray Drums


"This is now someone who will make people stand up after each song demanding more." ~John Book

"Taeko has a voice that everyone should hear" ~Russ Musto, AllAboutJazz

"A solid new sound that opens your ears if you like it funky and left leaning." ~Chris Spector, Midwest Record

New CD "VOICE" is Now Available
 For Sound Samples, Purchases, Reviews:


What The Press Is Saying About TAEKO “Voice”

Take a talented young Japanese singer, transplant her to New York in her formative musical years, immerse her in what is probably the world’s richest jazz scene, then stand back and listen to all those influences collide, knocking sparks off each other. That’s the story of Taeko Fukao’s career so far, and the result is a fascinating blend of bebop and scat, underscored at times by a poignant serenity fired by her native folk heritage, and at others by the smooth, tasteful sheen that defines the best of modern, mainstream jazz vocalists.

Taeko’s new album, Voice, is a vibrant patchwork of styles that reveals, above all, the passion with which she has explored the range of the jazz idiom. In some ways, it’s a showcase for the benefits of intense study – and just occasionally, the impact is almost overwhelming as she tears up a furious-paced “On A Clear Day” with the dexterity of Ella in her prime, or launches into the bebop delights of the Monk/Hawkins/Hendricks number “I Mean You”, recalling Annie Ross or Cleo Laine at the peak of their vocal powers.

Then she shifts tone and mood with a sublime rendition of the 1940s Japanese ballad “Soochow Serenade” and later, with the self-penned “Spring Nocturne”. Think Sade, with attitude. For all the pace and energy in the surrounding numbers, these are the most effective moments on the album: passages of reflection and melancholy in which a softer, mellow timbre is allowed to flourish on a more burnished melodic line, taken to the limit on Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes”.

This is where Taeko sounds genuinely at home, in the telling of stories, and not least on a subtle, swinging, modernised “Biwako”, a folk song about the Japanese lake near her birthplace at Shiga. Doug Richardson’s melodica solo comes unexpectedly, adding yet another flavour to the music and reflecting Taeko’s confidence in choosing musicians who can complement her eclectic vision with considerable ease: Richardson also plays drums, with Greg Lewis on the organ, guitarist Kevin McNeal, pianist Lou Rainone, and bass player Gaku Takanashi. All have their moments to shine – a sure sign of a generous vocalist.

Such is her versatility that the overall effect is sometimes like being strafed by a benign scattergun loaded with different styles. All of which makes the album’s title more appropriate. She shares one of her most promising vocal qualities – the ability to be part of the band rather than just the singer out front – with the greats. Taeko veers from the soulful funk of the opening track, Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” (lyrics by one of her mentors Juanita Fleming) to Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues”, using her sound in an assertive, challenging way without straying into aggression.

Her phrasing and diction are impeccable, with interesting nuances generated by the occasional hint of an accent rarely heard in jazz. It’s 12 years since she answered the call of the Big Apple. They’ve been well spent and the city has served her well. But if this album is anything to go by, Taeko’s horizons are set for rapid expansion. There’s a big jazz world out there and it’s beckoning an unusual and singular talent.
By Piers Ford

When I first came in contact with the music of Taeko, I was enamoured with her ability to stretch sound and work normal-sounding notes into waves of bending, meandering tone. Her sense of timing, too, was thrilling.
With Taeko’s latest release, appropriately called Voice, she evolves through her range and proves to be almost provoking in the ways she plays with the boundaries of singing. Bearing influences from Anita Baker to Ella Fitzgerald, Taeko’s work feels couched in Japanese traditions initially and branches through to the best in American and international jazz.
Voice finds her delivering a sassy string of confident numbers. She walks through the work of Herbie Hancock and Marvin Gaye adventurously and tacks on amazing renditions of traditional Japanese folk music to supply the expected curveball.
Taeko was born and raised on the outskirts of Kyoto and found early inspiration from the Japanese music played by her grandfather and father. She developed an interest in jazz in Japan and moved to New York in 1998 to dig deeper into the art form. Taeko has performed at a number of festivals and shows around the world, most notably in New York at the Women in Jazz Festival and as a headliner at the Newburgh Jazz Series.
As mentioned, Voice is a record that illustrates her evolution as an artist. Taeko’s energy is an unbridled as ever and this proves freeing as she takes chance after chance through these pieces. It’s as though she’s been set loose by her confidence, granted permission to toss out the rulebook.
Taeko’s delivery on Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island (Get Up)” is funky and polished. She holds notes elegantly, blowing through an extensive range that simmers handily into the bebop “I Mean You.”
After drawing out the New Yorker lurking within, Taeko takes a more personal road with the lovely “Spring Nocturne.” Unfortunately too short, the piece, written and composed by Taeko, is a glimpse into the singer’s Japanese heritage. It is elegant and intimate, making for one of my favourite tracks on the album.
Then there’s the engaging Wayne Shorter piece “Infant Eyes.” Featuring emotionally gripping lyrics from Doug Carn, the piece allows Taeko the self-determination to test the limits of her range.
Voice is a record of growth, telling the story of an artist developing and coming into her own. Taeko’s voice is akin to a powerful weapon in many ways and her ability to handle the nuances and strengths of her weapon is improving and growing with each moment of her fascinating, exhilarating career. More than anything else, Voice solidifies Taeko as an artist unafraid of taking chances.
BY Jordan Richardson

Sure, lyrics are important, but the voice and how it is used are what really matter in jazz singing. As a case in point, Japanese jazz vocalist Taeko performs two equally engaging versions of the Japanese folk song “Biwako,” one in its original language and a bonus rendition in English translation, on her latest CD, Voice. A diverse selection of American and Japanese standards, Taeko (often billed sans surname of Fukao) launches her latest release this Wednesday at the Kitano.

Voice opens with a very funky version of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island (Get Up)” arranged by drummer and longtime musical collaborator Doug Richardson to showcase Taeko’s vocal range. Indeed she has a strong, full voice and crystal clear articulation. For an immediate change of pace, it is followed by Thelonious Monk and Coleman Hawkins’s “I Mean You (You Know Who).” Obviously not one to back down from a challenge, Taeko easily navigates Jon Hendricks’s idiosyncratic lyrics, adding some satisfying scatting of her own.

However, the highlights of Voice come from Taeko’s native Japan. Even without an understanding of the lyrics (which actually address life in a Chinese village), her performance of “Soochow Serenade” is striking for its elegance and sensitivity. The way she caresses the lyrics of the Japanese hit from the 1940’s is a true pleasure to listen to.

There is a similar lyrical romanticism in the one original of the set, Taeko’s brief but evocative “Spring Nocturne.” Her translation of the Japanese folk song “Biwako,” which concludes the CD, is also smooth and seamless. Both versions are pleasingly catchy, bringing out the rich tone of her voice. Though both have a nostalgic feel, the English adaptation is much funkier, with the Greg Lewis’s organ replacing Lou Rainone’s acoustic piano, whereas Richardson’s concise melodica solo adds wistful texture to the earlier Japanese take.

For this outing, Taeko shows a preference for contemporary standards over Great American Songbook repertoire, but she dramatically interprets Ellington’s “I Didn’t Know about You” with the effectively spare accompaniment of guitarist Kevin McNeal. Despite her evident affinity for 1960’s and 1970’s soul music and soul jazz, Sly Stones’s “Stand!” does not prove to be a particularly amenable vehicle. By contrast, Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” is totally in her power zone—a sultry and soulful standout track.

TAEKO’s latest CD, Voice, is a tasteful collection of songs from some very different sources that she treats with the same skillful exectution.  Taeko Fukao, a native of Japan, has acquired the command of her instrument, her voice, and applied it to the genre of jazz in a way that is both technically significant and entertaining.  Her handling of the intricacies of the jazz genre has a clear sense of remarkable talent honed by a recognizable work ethic.

Under the coaching of Juanita Fleming, Taeko has evolved in her jazz voice and has taken on some interesting projects on Voice, including a lyric written by Fleming for Herbie Hancock’s familiar tune, "Canteloupe Island."  Taeko has a soulful, wistful voice with an ever so faint hint of her Asian ancestry, that sneaks into the tunes in the most appropriate way, especially during her expressive phrasing.  Taeko puts together a set list that includes the works of Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues," Wayne Shorter’s "Infant Eyes," and Stanley Turrentine’s "Sugar." Then mixes it up a bit with titles such as "Spring Nocturne," an original by the singer, and "Biwako," a traditional Japanese folk song that was a hit in Japan in the 1940’s.

Taeko’s approach to each of these songs is different, but consistent in each of them is the attention to execution, the precision and skilled management of her instrument is coupled with a playful and emotional coloring that conveys a shear joy with the work.   Taeko’s voice is a pleasure to listen to.  Even when in its deepest range it is still lite and gentle, while remaining full.  Her scat capability is remarkable in and of itself and presents itself in a lively rendition of Sly Stone’s "Stand!"

Overall, Taeko is brilliant in both her native language and her acquired language.  She demonstrates the skills built on a native talent that has been honed by a significant effort to convey the art of jazz vocals with all the musical elements in place and the heart and soul of a true jazz singer.

I found the entire CD to be a delightful departure from the run of the mill standards singers I have been hearing lately.  A refreshing new twist on some old favorites and an introduction into some new music from a Japanese influence, Taeko bridges both worlds exceptionally well.   If you haven’t heard of TAEKO, or listened to her Voice, then you must check it out!
Reviewed by: Chuck Vecoli   

Taeko – VOICE:  Whenever I look at a jazz CD cover in the Orient (particularly when they come from Japan, for some reason), I almost automatically have expected it to be all cover tunes that are (either) poorly executed or backed up with bands that can’t quite "make the grade".  &, yes, I know that’s not "PC" – but that’s not our forte here at this magazine… & I’ll tell you right now, this young lady has GOT IT!  Whether she’s doing Herbie Hancock, Monk, a Taeko original composition, or a Japanese jazz song – it’s all very pleasantly done, with superb ratings on both talent and energy.  She relocated to NYC during the late ’90’s, and has clearly learned her lessons well… just listen to her spirited singing on Marvin’s "Inner City Blues " – clearly brings the fact to light (again) that "The Man" still has his arms wrapped ’round everything… I mean, she OWNS this performance of Gaye’s classical soul tune!  It doesn’t hurt that she’s joined by some players we know already (Greg Lewis on organ; Kevin Mcneal on guitar), but the even 11 tunes (+ one bonus track) very nicely feature her superb vocal talent… this isn’t a set of tunes you’ll relegate to the bottom of your playlists anytime soon.  The tune that struck me as favorite track was Stanley Turrentine’s "Sugar "; whether you like puns or not – jazz just do NOT get any sweeter than this.  A very, VERY cool jazz vocal album that gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as my "PICK" for "best female jazz vocals" in 2010.      

O’s Notes: Japanese vocalist Taeko Fukao strikes a groove right away singing "Cantaloupe Island", the first of twelve classic contemporary jazz selections, mostly on the funky side. Greg Lewis (organ), Kevin McNeal (g), Doug Richardson (d), Lou Rainone (p) and Gaku Takanashi (b, g) form a strong band behind her. The arrangements are fresh and Taeko’s tone, scatting and personality make them unique. She puts her own soulful twist on the material while not straying so far that the tunes are unrecognizable. We enjoyed Taeko’s takes on "Inner City Blues", "On A Clear Day" with a fleeting solo from Rainone and "Sugar". We also liked her own "Spring Nocturne" a warm ballad. This is a splendid sophomore effort.
D. Oscar  Groomes
O’s Place Jazz Magazine

"Voice" by TAEKO, issued on Flat Nine Records, is a more "conventional" recording.  The Japanese native opens the CD, her 2nd, with an inspired rendition of Herbie Hancock’s "Canteloupe Island" and a reggae-soaked take of Monk’s "I Mean You."  Drummer Doug Richardson sets the pace throughout, coloring Marvin Gaye’s "Inner City Blues" with subtle high-hat work and solid propulsion while giving Wayne Shorter’s "Infant Eyes" (lyrics by Doug Carn) the correct amount of power, never overshadowing the vocalist, Greg Lewis‘s sweet organ and the soft electric guitar work of Kevin McNeal.

But, it’s TAEKO’s show from the opening moment and she displays a supple, dusky (at times) voice, good control of dynamics and a fine understanding of the lyrics. Her choice of material is certainly eclectic, with Sly & The Family Stone’s "Stand" next to Stanley Turrentine’s "Sugar" and Duke Ellington’s "I Didn’t Know About You."  Not "supper club" material but a set of songs for the modern "jazz club" and, because she has such an expressive voice, also a lot of fun.  STEP TEMPEST Blogspot

Wow! Taeko is a fun singer who is not shy about expressing her soul  on tunes like Herbie Hancok’s – Cantaloupe Island’ and Monk’s  “I Mean Y ou” , – “Marvin’s “Inner City Blues” and Stan Turrentine’s piece “Sugar”. You cannot beat a fearless musician who has etched out her/his unique and distinctive sound. —Ty Bailey

It’s immediately obvious that Taeko has surrounded herself with quality talent. For instance, her vocal coach Juanita Fleming who has shapen this native of Japan, Kaeto was born on the outskirts of Kyoto and was raised speaking Japanese, into a creative singer whose voice yields few, if any, clues to her heritage.
VOICE – her second full length CD, like her debut One Love, offers a wide variety of tunes to help accent her impressive range from line to line. This is smoooooth contemporary jazz with crystal clear execution.  From songs of Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Marvin Gaye, and Duke Ellington Taeko adds traditional Japanese folk tunes all performed in her distinctive style. — DJ Frank

An intriguing recording by a vocalist who displays considerable vocal range as well as choice of material. –Ron Weinstock Jazz & Blues Report

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