Eriko Yamaki Mercure is an elegantly eclectic pianist, drawing from classical studies in Tokyo, and jazz at Berklee College of Music. She has a sense of architecture, and play, so her music is a fun, slowly moving series of structures with a quick pace. All the songs she plays are originals, and they have romance and pathos, and they are lively, with forays into far and near places. She is in touch with the whole jazz palette. She is always unexpected, and always rewarding.
“Friends From Afar” starts with a rubato solo, with touches of Schubert, then abruptly goes into heavy swing, with drummer Mark Fairweather dropping rapid, syncopated bombs. Then it’s a plane of relaxed tempo pastel trio interplay, with strong, subtle backing from electric bassist Dave Mercure, who bows and draws his notes out long, to presage a great crescendo from Yamaki Mercure, which ends the song.
Oboist Joel Bard, and clarinetist Stephanie Clark, join the trio for their next number, “Morningside Heights.” The winds play a baroque duet before the trio comes in with a Latin beat. Here we get to see Yamaki Mercure as an accompanist, as she patiently accents the melodious, lyrical harmonies of clarinet and oboe, then adds a peppery spice to Mercure’s funky stops on bass. Her solo is delightful. Complex but limpid, sparkling, glistening.
“Get Well” is s gentle ballad, with jumps into racy interplay, and slips into reflective, soft explorations of mood. “Red Sox”, which the trio has played before, goes well with the winds, which work in different direction than the song, which has a modern but extroverted feel, complex chord structures with stride-like licks. But Clark on clarinet shifts her tone, giving it a brassy feel, and Bard’s oboe is very beautiful, sustaining the liquid sonorities of the conservatory.
It’s the trio by itself on “9 O’clock,” which has the intricate, mechanical feel of the inner workings of a clock. The tempo undulates, as usual, so it is never easy to pinpoint exactly the tone of any of the ensemble’s songs. They can have a sense of rush, exuberance, humor, as this one does, all at once. But Yamaki Mercure always goes very deep in her playing, so there is always the sense of reaching an inner core, and a drive.
“Sometime” is another number with a Latin feel, this one very dark and romantic, with stretches of open sky which the winds evoke. There are touches of all phases of jazz in this one, as in all of the songs, and it has the feel of going many places at once, like a Miro.