Jazz journalist and blogger Charles L. Latimer said Miwa's latest release is, "the best jazz trio album I've come across this year. Around the Boston jazz scene Miwa is a big deal, and after I listened to 'Wheel of Life' and 'Season of Wither,' I understood why. She a has a mean left hand and a restless right one. She plays a little bit of everything samba, blues, and hardcore bop."
Recorded in October 2010, during the trio’s second sold-out show at Scullers Jazz Club, the program confirms Miwa’s stylistic range and ability to communicate directly in a variety of moods. With a nod to standards, samba and the blues, the core of the program includes three original compositions and two unlikely transformations of pop material.
“Wheel of Life,” the first original, charts the ups and downs of existence with a deceptively simple circular form. “It’s about the life process,” Miwa explains, “from birth, struggle and the beautiful moments, then the bad and ultimately back to the beginning.” Long time partners Greg Loughman (acoustic bass) and Scott Goulding (drums) chart the shifts from calm to chaos with the same assurance that they employ when locking into the groove of “Mr. B.G.” This composition is a funky tribute to pianist Benny Green that also pays homage to Green’s former employer, bassist Ray Brown, as well as Green’s mentor and longtime Brown associate Oscar Peterson. Turning contemplative, “Silent Promise” relives a sad, rainy day experience and Miwa’s unspoken vow to see it through.
Miwa explains her choice of Steven Tyler’s “Seasons of Wither” and Lou Reed’s “Who Loves the Sun?” as part of her constant search for interesting material previously untapped by jazz artists. The Aerosmith classic, discovered by the pianist on YouTube, was originally conceived as an unaccompanied piano solo, but proved more effective with bass and drums added. Similarly, “Sun,” from Reed’s Velvet Underground days, gained emotional resonance when paired with “Wither” in an informal medley.
The program is completed by three diverse compositions. Steve Allen’s “This Could be the Start of Something” opens the disc with a dose of all-out swing. “I always ask myself, ‘What would Bill Evans have done with this tune?’” Miwa says about one of her idols, “and I was happy to find that Bill had recorded it with J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding.” Evans was also present on the first recording of Art Farmer’s blues “Mox Nix,” while another Miwa favorite, McCoy Tyner, helped Farmer and Benny Golson reprise the tune with their Jazztet. “It was a challenge to adapt this piece for trio,” she admits. “My goal was to capture the voicings Farmer and Golson got on the original recordings.” The closing “A Festa” [“The Party”] is a Milton Nascimento composition popularized by Brazilian vocalist Maria Rita, the daughter of Miwa favorite Elis Regina.
The trio’s sound is gloriously captured throughout, courtesy of engineers Christopher Corwin (live recording), Matt Hayes (mixing) and Toby Mountain (mastering), with Miwa’s commitment to spontaneity and serving her material in clear focus. “The originals were written for the show, because I always want to do something different,” she says, “and I want to stay open to new ideas. But the question I always ask is, ‘What’s best for this song?’”