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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

United Notions - Toshiko


United Notions

United Notions
With Toshiko And Her International Jazz Sextet
Recorded in New York City, June 13, 1958 at Beltone Studios
Supervision: Leonard Feather
Metrojazz High Fidelity E 100
A product of MGM Records


Nat Adderley - Cornet on Jane, Strike Up The Band, United Notions
Doc Severinsen - Trumpet on other titles
Rolf Kuhn - Clarinet and Alto Sax
Bobby Jasper (Courtesy of Riverside Records) - Flute, Tenor and Bariton Saxes
Toshiko - Piano
Rene Thomas - Guitar
John Drew - Bass
Bert Dahlander - Drums

From the back cover: Toshiko, who heads this multilingual group, was born Toshiko Akiyoshi in 1929 in Dairen, Manchuria, the youngest of four daughters of a Japanese textile merchant. She studied piano for nine years. After the occupation of her native country by the Chinese, the Akiyoshi family became part of a shipload of refugees, carrying only the bare essentials of their valuables and allowed to the out of the country a sum equal to about $3 per person. Regaining Japan, the family settled in a country home owned by Toshiko's father. At this point, supposed to enter medical school, she went without telling her family to the Yamada Officer's Club and took a job as a pianist in the club's orchestra.

After working with various Japanese jazz units she headed several small combos from 1951, playing at leading coffee houses. During those years in Japan she played regularly with the 289th U. S. Army Band, and was twice heard as a guest artist with the Tokyo Symphony. Then in November 1953 she was heard with Oscar Peterson, who was in Japan with the Jazz at the Philharmonic troupe. The result of Peterson's discovery of this improbably located talent was Toshiko's recording debut in Tokyo session for Norman Granz.

In January 1956 Toshiko arrived in Boston to study on a scholarship at the Berklee School of Music. She has been there ever since, but during vacations from school has worked in several American night clubs, usually leading her own trio at Storyville in Boston or the Hickory House in New York. My statement in The Encyclopedia Yearbook of Jazz (1956), that since her arrival here she has shown "a superb technique and an every-greater mastery of the Bud Powell style, of which she has become one of the outstanding disciples", still holds good. In fact, I believe today she has outstripped the idol she once tried to emulate and is one of the half-dozen most dynamically pianists in all of jazz.

Each of the instruments surrounding Toshiko in her International Jazz Sextext is played by an artist who reached the United States from a different foreign country, with the sole exception of the trumpet, which remained in America hands throughout.

Bobby Jasper was born in 1926 in Liege, Belgium. After working with various combos, mostly in Paris, throughout the early 1950s, he won first place in the Jazz Hot poll both as tenor saxophonist and combo leader, and emigrated to the U.S. in April 1956. He worked with the combos if J. J. Johnson and Miles Davis; recently he returned temporarily to Paris, taking with him his own all-star American quintet. He is married to the American singer Blossom Dearie.

Rolf Kuhn, born in Cologne, Germany, in 1929, took up clarinet at 12, escaped from East Germany in 1952 to join a jazz group, and was strongly influenced by the clarinet of Buddy De Franco. After broadcasting with his own quartet one an American station in Berlin and winning several European jazz polls, he came to the U.S. in May 1956, and spent several months with the Benny Goodman band and with the posthumous Tommy Dorsey orchestra.

Nat Adderley, born in Tampa, Fla. in 1931, is the younger brother of the alto saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, with whose quintet he was heard until 1957; since then he has worked chiefly with the J. J. Johnson Quintet. Carl "Doc" Severinsen, who replaces him on some tracks, is a greatly underrated musician whose talent has been hidden for several years by obscurity of an NBC house job, though he emerged in the spring of 1958 as a regular member of the band on the NBC-TV educational series The Subject Is Jazz. This is his first jazz combo recording date.

Rene Thomas, though he participates in this album as an emissary from Canada (he has lived in Montreal in recent years) actually is an old friend and colleague of Bobby Jasper, whose home town is also Rene's. Born in 1927, he studied guitar at the age of 11 and is entirely self-taught. Though still a resident of Canada, where he has done TV and club work, he came to the U.S. in 1957 and worked briefly with Sonny Rollins, who (along with Zoot Sims, Chet Baker and countless other American musicians who have played with him) considers him the greatest "undiscovered" guitarist on the scene.

John Derek Drew, born in 1927 in Sheffield and raised in Liverpool, England, worked with many British name bands before emigrating to the U.S. in 1954. He has been seen here with the Heal Hefts band, the Gene Kruppa quartet, the Barbara Carroll trio, as well as with a symphony orchestra in Miami; currently he is free-lancing busily around New York.

Bert Dahlander (his full named is Nils-Bertil Dahlander) was born in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1928. After working locally with a Swedish radio band and with his own quartet, he soon rose to acceptance as Sweden's number on drummer. First coming to the U.S. in 1954, he worked with a house group at the Bee Hive in Chicago, backing Wardell Gray, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stott, then spent a year on the road with Terry Gibbs. After touring in Europe with Chet Baker he returned to the U.S. in 1957, rejoined Gibbs for a few months and for the past year has been a member of the Teddy Wilson Trio.

From Billboard - November 3, 1958: A new subsidiary label of MGM, Metrojazz, has a good set for the jazz buffs with this new release. It features Japanese pianist TOshiko (who by now is an adopted daughter of the United States, jazz-wise) and her international sextet, with N. Adderly, B. Jasper, D. Severinsen, R. Kuhn, R. Thomas, J. Drew, and B. Dahlander. It contains some first rate piano stylings by Toshiko on a group of original tunes, plus excellent support by the combo. On this release the pert pianist turns in some of her best work to date.

Swingin' Till The Girls Come Home
United Notions
Civilized Folk
Strike Up The Band

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