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Album Review: Kataribe
Missa Johnouchi
Cover image of the album Kataribe by Missa Johnouchi
Missa Johnouchi
2003 / Pacific Moon
Review by Kathy Parsons
Kataribe (Storyteller) is Missa Johnouchi’s first solo piano album, and is made up mostly of original works collected from previous albums and converted into lovely, flowing piano pieces. Johnouchi successfully blends Asian musical forms with western contemporary and classical styles, creating a pastiche that is both beautiful and relaxing for those who want easy musical accessibility, and complex enough for the active listener who delights in the discovery of new facets with each listen. Johnouchi has a history of composing for Japanese television and film, and her music is visual and vivid. Referring to Chopin’s title of “The Poet of the Piano,” Johnouchi calls herself “The Storyteller of the Piano,” hence the title of the album. Her inspiration comes from an awe of nature and the seasons, and the changes they bring. Most of the pieces have a somewhat melancholy feeling, but all contain a sense of hope and optimism as well as grace.

“Asian Wind” is the piece Johnouchi usually opens with in concert. It portrays a very gentle wind - perhaps more of a breeze that gracefully bends the delicate trees and flowers. Johnouchi has included two compositions by Kazumasa Yoshioka, the producer of Pacific Moon, her label. “Shuufu (Autumn Breeze)” is especially elegant. The warm flow of the piece soothes and uplifts. “Snow Forest” is full of open spaces, describing the gentle stillness and beauty of snow-covered scenes. Again, the grace and elegance of Johnouchi’s composing and playing is amazing as well as deeply evocative. “Deja Vu” is my favorite track. Johnouchi writes in the liner notes that she thinks people live searching for light because it’s the first thing we see the moment we are born and we remember forever what that moment felt like. That sense of searching and longing comes through clearly and emotionally. Here and there are some surprising chord changes that remind me of Satie - an intriguing and inspiring piece. I also really like “Horizon,” a very sad piece that was composed while visualizing a sunset at the horizon line. Slow and uncluttered but deeply emotional, it is gorgeous!

There isn’t a weak track on Kataribe. If you like elegant, deeply felt solo piano you’ll love this album. I do! It is available at most of the online music retailers as well as from pacificmoon.com/html/missa.html. Very highly recommended.
March 6, 2003
This review has been tagged as:
Debut Albums