Yuko Mabuchi Trio :: Producer’s Notes

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Yuko Mabuchi Trio

Yuko Mabuchi, piano

Del Atkins, bass

Bobby Breton, drums

Yuko Mabuchi moved to the United States from her native Japan only recently, but when she plays American jazz she speaks the language perfectly.  I love Yuko’s sense of rhythm and melody, and her improvising feels like she was born in Detroit or New York City.  Her technique reminds me of some of Yuko’s music idols like Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock and Monty Alexander.  But beyond her talent for traditional jazz, one can also hear flavors of American R&B, Hip-Hop and Blues, which Yuko loved as a teenager.  This album’s associate producer and Yarlung special advisor Billy Mitchell describes Yuko’s playing as “funky from the heart,” and he means that as an enormous compliment.  Yuko was born in Fukui, on the west coast of Japan, north of Kyoto.  She studied classical music and the piano starting at age four, and continued her studies at the AN Music School in Kyoto, where she was a jazz piano student of Kunihiro Kameda.

I first heard the Yuko Mabuchi Trio at Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood.  The trio performed for the annual SAPPA gala, a non-profit organization for which Yuko volunteers as accompanist for the Watts-Willowbrook Youth Symphony.

I went home that night, thinking about the trio’s electrifying sound and Yuko’s dynamism.  I telephoned the next day, asking if Yuko wanted to make a debut album with her trio.  “Yes!” she said.  We held our live concert recording session on March 31st, 2017.  My friend Billy Mitchell was an integral part of this project, organizing rehearsals and assisting in the overall production of this recording.  His depth of experience, superb instincts, good humor and organizational ability have made this project an enduring pleasure.

Dr. Antonio Damasio generously invited us back to the Brain and Creativity Institute’s Cammilleri Hall at USC for this concert and recording.  This is the gem of a concert hall designed by Yasuhisa Toyota and lovingly built by Antonio and Hanna Damasio, where Yarlung recorded our first jazz albums with Sophisticated Lady jazz quartet.   The superb concert hall acoustics and the cozy 90 seat size make Cammilleri ideal for all sorts of music but especially nice for an intimate jazz concert like this.  If only more jazz clubs sounded like Cammilleri Hall!

Yarlung’s engineers Arian Jansen and Tom Caulfield joined me for this project which we recorded in stereo on analog tape and in 256DSD and 5 Channel Surround Sound in 256DSD.

Special thanks to our family at the Brain and Creativity Institute: Ivan Zawinul, Mario Gurrola, Denise Nakamura, Faith Ishibashi and Cinthya Nuñez, who make all great things possible.  Much appreciation also to Brittany Welsh at the Radisson Midtown Hotel at USC who made us feel so welcome.  

The Music

Cole Porter: What Is This Thing Called Love

from Cole Porter’s musical Wake Up and Dream premiered by Elsie Carlisle in London in March of 1929.  Frances Shelley sang the tune in the Broadway premiere in December of the same year.  Famous recordings include those by Billie Holiday, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Anita O’Day, Julie London and Wynton Marsalis.

Mark Lehman: Valse Noire

Cincinnati composer and writer Mark Louis Lehman follows some of his compositional heroes, Hindemith, Bartók, Piston and Martin, with music both insightful and intimate.  Here Yuko Mabuchi improvises with her trio on Lehman’s opening tune of Valse Noire, originally written for solo piano.

Bronisław Kaper: On Green Dolphin Street

Miles Davis made this tune world famous in his 1958 recording, but Kaper wrote this tune in 1947 for the film Green Dolphin Street.  Also recorded by Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughan, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and a long list of other famous interpreters.

Sara Bareilles: Seriously

Bareilles wrote Seriously for the singer Leslie Odom Jr. for a special session on This American Life.  Yuko arranged this captivating tune and its nuances of deep humanity for the Trio.   They performed it for the first time in Cammilleri Hall during our Yarlung concert.

Jazz Medley: All The Things You Are, Take The “A” Train, Satin Doll

Jerome Kern’s All The Things You Are comes from the musical Very Warm for May in 1939 and has been performed by disparate musicians from Pat Metheny to Mildred Bailey, from Keith Jarrett to Michael Jackson.  Billy Strayhorn’s Take The “A” Train, the signature tune for the Duke Ellington orchestra, was written in 1931 and recorded first in 1941 by Ellington’s band for radio broadcast.  Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck and others further catapulted the song into jazz history.  Satin Doll, also by Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington, came out in 1953 on Capitol Records, and has since been celebrated by artists from Ella Fitzgerald to 101 Strings and Nancy Wilson.

Japanese Medley: Hazy Moon, Cherry Blossom, Look At The Sky

The Japanese nursery rhyme Hazy Moon (Oborozuki) has been performed by musicians like Baisho Chieko, Mika Nakashima and Mariah Carey and was written by Teiichi Okano in 1914.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) from the 17th Century Edo period, was originally played on the koto to celebrate Hanami, or spring flower viewing during the Tokugawa shogunate.

The medley ends with Hachidai Nakamura’s Look At The Sky, (Ue wo Muite Arukou), nicknamed Sukiyaki in English.  The tune was first performed by Kyu Sakamoto, who made it famous around the world.  The song has since been recorded by artists such as Ben E. King, Marlena Shaw and A Taste Of Honey.

Yuko Mabuchi: Sona’s Song

Yuko Mabuchi wrote this song in honor of a beautiful child, a family member living in Thailand.  Sona has a sweet smile and her father created a video of his daughter to go along with this tune.  Yuko first recorded this melody in 2014 for her CD My Life.

Sonny Rollins: St. Thomas

The Sonny Rollins Quartet first released St. Thomas in 1956 on the album Saxophone Colossus.  This Latin Jazz classic has been performed and recorded often, including by Michel Petrucciani, Bradford Marsalis and now the Yuko Mabuchi Trio. St. Thomas has an interesting prehistory as well.  Rollins adopted this tune from an 18th Century English ditty called The Lincolnshire Poacher.  This song resurfaced during the American Civil War as The New York Volunteer, and again in the Australian infantry as a marching song during WWI.


Arian Jansen and I recorded the stereo version of the Yuko Mabuchi Trio concert using an AKG C-24 and two Schoeps M222 vacuum tube microphones from Ted Ancona, and a 5ZERO7 from David Bock.  We used Elliot Midwood vacuum tube microphone preamplification and fed our signal into our SonoruS ATR12 analog tape recorder using Sonorus Holographic Imaging technology, and into our Merging Technologies Hapi converter recording DSD256 using Pyramix software.

5 Channel Surround Sound

Yarlung recording engineer Tom Caulfield recorded our 5 Channel Surround Sound using three DPA 4041SP and two DPA 4006A microphones. Tom fed these microphones directly into his Merging Technologies Hapi converter to record in 256DSD.  Please visit yarlungrecords.com for links to our DSD downloads in stereo and surround sound.

–Bob Attiyeh, producer

Recording Engineers:

Bob Attiyeh & Arian Jansen, stereo analog tape and DSD
Tom Caulfield, 5 Channel Surround Sound
Associate Producer: Billy Mitchell
Steinway Technician: Yinuo Xu
Microphone Technician: David Bock
Vacuum Tube Microphones:
Ancona Audio & Bock Audio
Double Bass Luthier: Elliot Midwood
Mastering Engineers: Steve Hoffman & Bob Attiyeh

Executive Producer:

Randy Bellous
Layout: Eron Muckleroy
Cooper Bates Photography