Album Title: Mei
Performer: Emiko Minakuchi Trio
Label: Musica Guild
Playing time: 48'55"
Recorded: Studio Accès Digital, France 2008.

Emiko Minakuchi was born in Yokohama where she began learning the piano at the age of four. She studied classical music and piano at the Musashino University in Tokyo. Then she discovered jazz and improvisation thanks to pianist Junko Onishi. After attending a Michel Petrucciani live performance at the Tokyo Blue Note jazz club, she decided to move to Paris to study jazz even though she spoke not a word of French.

Today she teaches herself piano at the French jazz school ARPEJ and has released her second album Mei with Hugo Céchosz on bass and Elie Duris on drums. All compositions are her own. Although the style is very different from fellow-country performer Hiromi Uehara, Emiko has found a way to develop her own vision of jazz where she mixes her classical romantic roots with Afro-American music.

Mei remains a pure product of the recent French jazz tradition however. What is particularly compelling is Emiko's work as a composer. This girl definitely has something to say and she does so with rare intelligence and in an appropriate manner which reflects inspirations from many contemporary pianists. "Yuna" and "Fauré" are very captivating tracks with great interaction between the trio's members. Emiko Minakuchi can play loud and sweet and she never goes too fast in her rhythmic abilities to suggest that total fireworks are still in the future.

But as Jazz is not merely about virtuosity and the music delivered by this young lady is a true enjoyment. Emiko succeeds in preserving intimacy with personal musical emotions in the same way Leila Olivesi (another young French pianist) succeeds in maintaining her oriental roots in the jazz universe. Bass and drum are also first class. Hugo Céchosz and Elie Duris are completely convincing and they obviously do more than simple sidemen stuff. Because this young French generation needs support and because this latest outing is already musically more interesting than many recent releases from rather more famous jazz artists, I shalll bestow a Blue Moon award without any hesitation whatsoever.