Gecko & Tokage Parade - Heart of Tokage

Gecko & Tokage Parade – Heart of Tokage

What we have spinning today is Heart of Tokage by Gecko & Tokage Parade, a Japanese new-generation instrumental jazz band. If that sounds like a mouthful to you then you may well be asking “why?”. In fact, this particular release is not as esoteric as the description suggests. The band, founded in 2016 and led by Waturu Sato, also known as Gecko, is a traditional four-piece band with Gecko on piano and electric piano accompanied by guitar, drums, and bass and Heart of Tokage is their sixth album. The band is now a feature of the modern jazz scene in Japan and the Far East having played to a growing audience at a number of festivals.

In the band’s discography, the influence of jazz fusion has always been there, but they have used that as a basis for creating songs in a wide range of musical styles. The essence of this album seems to be an attempt at a sophisticated form of jazz-pop, something like the band Sky excelled at in and around the early ’80s.

The first track, Ace, relies heavily on a theme reminiscent of the old Pearl & Dean Cinema advertising jingle, and the main theme of the third track, Run&Gun, is closely related to Al Stewart’s Running Man. There is a lot more going on in these tracks of course, but these openers do set the scene for a lot of what comes later, and in the beginning, I spent far too much time looking for other references when I should have been focusing on the music.

The album has a very modern production sound and the execution of the melodies and phrases developed throughout are clean and crisp. The musicianship is excellent and with all the band members being featured it is not just a showcase for Gecko. The downside for me is that the songs lack much of the originality and danger associated with fusion and the improvised stylings of jazz. Vortex is arguably the standout track, and elsewhere Pray for Rain and Journey are also the pick of the more interesting pieces that suggest an alternative more rock-based musical direction that could be explored by the band. Journey starts and ends with screeching guitars and the mix of jazz/djent/grunge in that one track is the most surprising feature of the album by far. More of that next time?

The album as a whole is a satisfying blend of instrumental music that has been good fun to have on in the background over the last week or so. Gecko is an extremely talented pianist/composer/band leader, still young at 33, who made his name as a solo artist and is now developing more and more in the realm of electronica and experimental music. In Gecko & Tokage Parade he shows that he is more than capable of creating engaging and popular music whilst pushing at the boundaries.

01. Ace (3:13)
02. Fiction (3:42)
03. Run&Gun (3:00)
04. Pray For Rain (4:52)
05. Wetland (5:36)
06. Vortex (4:22)
07. Highway (2:53)
08. Tell Me A Bedtime Story (6:16)
09. Journey (5:13)
10. Heart (5:09)

Total Time – 45:00

Wataru Sato – Keyboards
Keitaro Kurosawa – Guitar
Takuya Nakayama – Bass
Subaru Anayama – Drums

Record Label: Playwright
Country of Origin: Japan
Date of Release: 22nd March 2023

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