Monday Michiru | Don’t Disturb This Groove

Monday Michiru – Don’t Disturb This Groove

By Peggy Oliver
Michiru is a woman who has worn a lot of hats. Though she was born to
notable jazz musicians, the Japanese born multi-gifted talent has also
tapped into acting, journalism and as a media host. But when successful
musicians are surrounded with like-minded family members, it is only
natural that they want to carry on in their parent’s footsteps. Michiru
Michiru parents just happen to be pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and
saxophonist Charlie Mariano. Her mother was one of the few women during
the fifties to make a big impression in the bebop jazz and was noted as
the first female arranger and composer by Down Beat Magazine Readers
Choice in 1984. Mariano has played with Charles Mingus and Japanese
saxophone player Sadeo Watanabe; combining jazz and occasionally
incorporating world music. Like her mother, Michiru is a well respected
arranger and composer. Like her father, Michiru picked up a woodwind
instrument in the flute. She also discovered there was another
instrument inside of her.
After singing in choirs
and playing classical flute in her childhood years, Michiru picked up on
acting; winning critical acclaim at the International Film Festival in
Tokyo in 1987 for her work in Luminous Woman that
ironically tracks the tale of a an opera singer. After stints in film,
the theater and hosting radio and TV shows, Michiru found still another
outlet; this time as a music columnist. It was only appropriate she
chose to examine the world of jazz; where she interviewed various
musicians in modern and hip-hop jazz for an article appropriately
titled, What Is Jazz?
the early nineties, Michiru has built a respectable career in Japan,
Europe and the U.S. in the acid jazz world as a recording artist, vocal
producer, songwriter and arranger; collaborating with Basement Jaxx and
Masters at Work amongst many others. She also is a regular staple
throughout various international jazz clubs and festivals including the
Blue Note Clubs in New York and Japan and the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Recently, Michiru’s music has been a staple with Soul Unsigned’s Jump Start 1 & 2 compilation series that focuses on jazz geared for the underground dance clubs.  
Bridging jazz with various rhythmic colors, Don’t Disturb This Groove is
Michiru’s unique perspective of urban music from the seventies and
eighties. And the mix represented here is well balanced; utilizing
different textures of soul, world and reggae. Sometimes subtle melodic
liberties are taken and some chord progressions are slightly offbeat,
but those qualities are what spark Michiru’s distinctive brand of jazz.
Michiru’s flute and brass section beautifully frames “Ooh La La La,” the
biggest R&B hit for Teena Marie in 1988. Azymuth is a contemporary
jazz group that successfully bridges Brazilian and funk music, including
their 1980 track, “Um Amigo.” Michiru’s stunning lines blends into this
primarily instrumental piece between the wordless vocals and stretching
notes in the higher register. The title track is molded into a chilled
out arrangement compared to the harder hitting funk version from The
System in 1987. Of course, Michiru caters to her underground club
audience. The Emotions’ 1977 signature tune, “Best of My Love,” is
flipped into a sassy samba. I must admit Michiru’s got the vocal AOWW
hooks from the original down to a fine science. The certified Stevie
Wonder 1977 classic, “As,” is a swift Latin house jam; gorgeously framed
by trumpeter Alex Sipiagin. The killer double syncopated beats of
Terron Darby and Simone Giuliani add emphatic kick to Chaka Khan’s
rarely heard gem from 1981, “I Know You I Live You.” One might swear
Michiru possesses Chaka’s soulful oomph as well. Slowing the pace down
for the closer, the international favorite from 1974 by Bob Marley, “No
Woman No Cry,” transforms into a very moving acoustic modern jazz
excursion showcasing the graceful sax work of Seamus Blake.
Michiru keeps the acid jazz flame alive with Don’t Disturb This Groove
and the aforementioned tracks embody her impeccable art of arranging
music from a few decades back. Indeed, Michiru’s many musical hats are
an appropriate tribute to the parents who inspired her to touch
others for several urban music generations to come
Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene   

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