TAEKO's latest CD, Voice, is a tasteful collection of songs from some very different sources that she treats with the same skillful execution. 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, "Cantaloupe 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!