Jun Miyake

Innocent Bossa in the Mirror (Tropical Music)

The Japanese fascination with Brazilian bossa nova runs as deep as any of the island nation's other super-consumerist pop culture hobbies. The record stalls of Tokyo bulge with pricey reissues of obscure rarities, as well as thousands of discs that skirt the margins of international copyright law. It's not just hard-core collector nerds who are drawn to the Brazilian stuff though; many Japanese musicians find the gentle acoustic melodies equally irresistible. While some artists, like bandleader Lisa Ono, have jetted across the globe to jam with Brazil's best jazz players, composer Jun Miyake simply waited for Brazil to come to him.

While Miyake has made his name composing TV-commercial music for high-profile clients like Sony, Panasonic, and Mercedes-Benz, the classically trained multi-instrumentalist's real passion is jazzy avant-pop. Miyake frequently works with Peter Scherer (formerly of the New York experimental band Ambitious Lovers), and he devoted his 2000 album Mondo Erotica to the sonic exploration of sexuality and arousal, which provided a natural bridge into the slinky style of bossa nova icon Antonio Carlos Jobim.

When Miyake decided to explore Brazilian culture, which he confessed to knowing little about, he turned to two like-minded musical modernists who were passing through Tokyo: Arto Lindsay and Vinicius Cantuária. Lindsay, who's also a former Ambitious Lover, grew up in Brazil but moved to New York in the late '70s to become part of the art-punk scene. Over the past 20 years Lindsay has fostered -- along with Cantuária -- a wildly creative U.S. bossa nova renaissance, blending the style's quiet acoustic rhythms with the multilayered textures of modern electronica.

Miyake's Innocent Bossa in the Mirror is the result of a jam session among the three musicians, with Cantuária providing soulful acoustic guitars, Lindsay crooning original Portuguese lyrics, and Miyake dancing between the margins, playing piano, guitars, and brass. As Lindsay and Cantuária's solo albums do, Innocent Bossa re-creates the calm, graceful elegance of older Brazilian artists such as João Gilberto and Carlos Lyra, while working in playfully odd electronic samples. The result is sublime -- an Asian update of Brazilian balladry that stands toe-to-toe with the best original bossa recordings, capturing the same eclectic magic that transfixed the world 40 years ago.

 
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