(All Album Reviews by gsk42)
Tsutomu Kurihara: guitars
Luna Umegaki: keyboards, programming, composer
Anri Sekine (guest): violin
Mark Irvine Hamilton (guest): bagpipes
Kazumi Hasegawa (guest): voice
Hirobumi Suzuki (guest): percussion
Ittoku Shimamura (guest): drums
Toru Itoga (guest): voice
Toshimi Nagai (guest): fretless bass
Vagabond Suzuki (guest): stick
Hailing from Japan, LU7 is the morphing project of guitarist Tsutomu Kurihara and composer and keyboardist Luna Umegaki. Their debut Efflorescence, still available as an MP3 download, was a somewhat “safe” venture into jazz-fusion realms, but was still worthy of passing attention due to its deft attention to detail and fine execution. Now, with L’esprit De L’exil they return to the familiar environs of their debut, except this time the music has grown and developed a tad.
The strongest aspect of L’esprit De L’exil is in its craftsmanship, its ability to navigate not only jazzier styles but also incorporate Celtic influences, as well as other indigenous musical influences. This is in evidence throughout and most readily noticed on “Itsumo Hajimari”, “Canary Creeper”, “Secret Recipe” and “Danse Rituelle Du Feu”, and it is mostly because these atmospheric contrasts that the entirety here surpasses their passable but tame debut. Still elsewhere, like on “Bluetail Of Passage” or “Air Flow”, the music lapses into radio-friendly, easy-listening, jazz-fusion slickness, which is not offensive in the least, but surely is not striking nor very exciting either. It is these dalliances into the calm, formulaic waters of smooth jazz that not only beset their debut but also eventually threaten their efforts here.
Too many times, inventive passages give way to the type of so-called Fusion we have heard on our radios, which, all too often, have playlists featuring a brand of music which is usually derivative and always unchallenging. Such as it is with at least half of L’esprit De L’exil, as much as the music can impress, and it does, it also can bore and become tedious, just the same. "I have heard this all before", the refrain kept springing to mind, as I listened. Therein lies the greatest flaw here. Not much truly new at all!
The big upside is, as I noted before, their proficient musicianship and willingness to occasionally expand upon the procedures used in some jazz-fusion. Similarly, their music can be delightful and highly impressive. This was a frustrating listen. Inasmuch as the music was able to impress me, it also left me estranged by its many forays into the type of jazz I might accidentally dial in on my radio. Therefore, I am left with a mixed reaction. This, I hope, is part of an evolution for them, as LU7 is surely a competent duo and, hopefully, as they mature a bit, the likelihood of a more innovative – or, shall I say, less safe – offering lies ahead. We can only hope, as the band does evince promise.