Arrangement: Rasmus Faber Presents: Platina Jazz ~Anime Standards Vol. 2~ – Review

Album Title: Rasmus Faber presents Platina Jazz ~Anime Standards Vol.2~
Anime Title: Various
Artist: Rasmus Faber, Niklas Gabrielsson, Emily McEwan
Catalog Number: VICP-64900
Release Type: Arrangement
Release Date: November 17, 2010
Purchase at: CDJapan, iTunes


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
01. Hajimete no Chuu (My First Kiss) Rasmus Faber, Niklas Gabrielsson 3:59
02. Bouken Desho Desho? Rasmus Faber 4:32
03. Adesso e Fortuna Rasmus Faber 3:17
04. Preparade Rasmus Faber 3:52
05. Skies of Love Rasmus Faber, Emily McEwan 3:38
06. Ai no Field Rasmus Faber 3:39
07. Merry-Go-Round of Life Rasmus Faber 4:31
08. Akatsuki no Kuruma Rasmus Faber 4:39
09. Yakusoku wa Iranai Rasmus Faber 4:14
10. Hello, Vifam Rasmus Faber, Emily McEwan 3:56
11. Sobakasu (Freckles) Rasmus Faber 4:01
12. For Fruits Basket Rasmus Faber 3:53
13. Yume no Tamago Rasmus Faber, Emily McEwan 4:24
14. Voyage Rasmus Faber 5:10
15. Aimo – Tori no Hito Rasmus Faber 4:30
16. Tamashii no Refrain Rasmus Faber 4:50
17. Kigurumi Wakusei Rasmus Faber 6:23
18. Ai Oboete Imasuka (Do You Remember Love) Rasmus Faber 5:15

Review: From under one corporate umbrella are two car companies unlike in dignity.  In Volkswagen, the image of fun but frugal prevails.  In Audi, the sleek sexiness suitable for the likes of Iron Man.   Prudence dictates that these companies shouldn’t compete between themselves and cannibalize sales from each other. With that in mind, consider that, in 2002, Volkswagen released a car called the Phaeton, the very antithesis of this business concept. The car had an Audi engine, an Audi design, an Audi-like interior, all at a near-Audi price; it was essentially a rebadged Audi.

Naturally, I questioned this decision. Why make the car so similar to an Audi?  Why even call it a Volkswagen? Why go through the trouble? Why not just make another, better Audi?

It was then I realized I was missing the point.

The Phaeton wasn’t about being the undisputed sales leader or profit center. It wasn’t about being a world-beating, do-everything car. It was more emotional than that, more passionate.  It was a challenge; a declaration of what Volkswagen could accomplish in the luxury market that they had previously dared not tread.

The result?  An exquisite, roomy, comfortable, cutting edge, powerful, handsomely-designed sales disaster. But, again, that’s not the point.

This brings me, finally, to Platina Jazz Vol.2.

The album may be surprising in a number of ways. Those expecting lightly-rearranged, jazz-flavored covers of their favorite anime songs will be sorely disappointed; if you’re looking for the same sort of sparkle and flair of the originals, you’ll find little to like here. The versions of the anime staples here are entirely reimagined, totally deconstructed, rebuilt-from-the-ground-up jazz songs that are unapologetically just jazz. Think less the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout” and more John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things,” and you’re getting the general idea. These songs only have a passing resemblance to their originals. In fact, some numbers are barely even recognizable as the songs to which they’re supposedly paying tribute.

I wondered at one point why Rasmus Faber even decided to base an album off of anime tunes. Why even bother? Why target a niche market of a niche market? Why make the songs so unrecognizable? Why not just make another, better, purely jazz album?

Again, I was simply looking at it the wrong way.

Platina Jazz Vol.2 is a variety of expression, loving fandom, and delicate homage that I had simply not encountered before. The point of this album is not to regurgitate the anime songs over again in a jazz setting. Rather, it aims to translate everything that was great about the source material into an entirely different paradigm. It’s only once you understand this and only after you remove yourself from unfair expectations that you begin to realize how clever the adaptations are and how beautifully this album is executed.

Hajimete no Chuu

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Consider “Hajimete no Chuu,” a slow-and-steady power ballad turned buttery-smooth big-band smoocher in the vein of Sinatra and Crosby. Though not totally indicative of the style of the rest of the album, it sets a high standard in terms of execution and quality. The lively, bouncy instrumentals are typical big-band fare, but Niklas Gabrielsson’s vocals are what really steal the show. Low key and unflashy, his voice work here is just so spot-on in a velvety coddling leading-man sort of way that, not only will women be attracted to him, men who thought they were heterosexual may be compelled to reconsider.

But it’s “Hajimete no Chuu” that’s the anomaly; much of the remainder of the album takes on a very west-coast vibe. Ironically anticlimactic, hyper-cool, and irreverently laid-back, Faber’s exhibited style here is less Monk/Bird than it is Brecker/Desmond.

Bouken Desho Desho?

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“Bouken Desho Desho?” of Haruhi fame is a perfect example of this approach. The melody and chord structure carries this one quite well into a bossa nova interpretation. The intricate arrangement and energy in the original are replaced by a more thoughtful, relaxed persona. In the typical jazz style, an opening recitation of the main melody is just used to introduce the chord progression that will be the basis for improvisation. The piano and bass solos are tame as far as jazz solos go, but the key words here seem to be “tasteful” and “understated.” The way the piano plays off of the bass during the latter’s solo is very well done and a lot of fun.

Preparade

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Much the same can be said of Toradora’s “Preparade,” though some wind instruments have been thrown into the mix. Like “Bouken Desho Desho?,” “Preparade” is a somewhat mellowed, funky Latin take on its namesake. The melody is played rather straight by the winds, but is peppered with some delicious improvised counterpoint from the piano. The trumpet and tenor sax provide some of the more satisfyingly rambunctious solos on the disc, though they may be a bit strange and off the wall for the uninitiated. Those with jazz inclinations will find much to like, however.

Skies of Love

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Just as you’re settling into the jazz club style, the album suddenly takes a sharp right to more straightforward fare. “Skies of Love” is a beautiful ballad that maintains much of the romanticism of the original. Emily McEwan returns to contribute her vocals from Platina Jazz Volume 1, though her typically clean and sensitive delivery could have used a bit more emotional oomph. The star of this tune is undoubtedly the piano solo, especially in how heavily it deviates from the source material compared to the rather no-nonsense vocals. It’s amazing how different a song can sound with a piano solo dancing around chord tones. The bass is always the unsung hero in any genre, and I must commend it here for exhibiting some fantastic and subtle call-and-response.

Akatsuki no Kuruma

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Rasmus throws us another curveball with “Akatsuki no Kuruma.” Featuring a string quartet, the arrangement is certainly impressive but feels somewhat out of place on the album, with a too-short, too-straight piano solo. It adds up to be an absolutely beautiful ballad and one of my favorite numbers on the disc, but a few more notches of jazz would have done a lot to make this song truly great.

Sobakasu (Freckles)

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“Sobakasu (Freckles)” is probably the most successful translation to jazz displayed here. The song is instantly recognizable as its source material while being totally in another genre. It works shockingly well as a swinging big band barnburner. Constantly upbeat, it has some great, densely harmonized, sax soli work that seems to sparkle as the wonderfully subtle drums scurry things along. It was also nice to see Martin Persson on piano get out of the way for a bit to let the winds have their time to shine, even going so far as to feature a bari sax solo. A baritone sax player myself, I was pleased to hear that the largest of the (common) sax family was mixed very prominently in the overall mastering as well. Definitely one of the highlights of the disc.

Kigurumi Wakusei

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Fans of Hanamaru Kindergarten should rejoice, as my favorite song on the disc hands down is the second ED song “Kigurumi Wakusei.” If this entire album is one great expression of fandom, then this tune represents the pinnacle of a loving fan tribute. The cleverest of all the songs here, “Kigurumi Wakusei” is a knowing wink to all fans that says “Yeah, we’re in on the joke, too.” When you consider the squeaky-voiced, dramatically drawn out irony and tongue-in-cheek mock-space-opera nature of the original, it’s downright hilarious how deadly serious they play this one out. The arrangement is absolutely fantastic. Blurring the line between big band jazz and wind ensemble neo-classicism, the score is satisfyingly dense and busy while allowing enough room for soloists, which, much to my delight, includes a bari sax. Everything down to the last detail from the original is lovingly translated to the big band style; the faux ending and teary trumpet lamentation were particularly well done in this regard.

It’d be a mistake to dub this disc a cover album. The songs here pay tribute in a less obvious way. There’s more love, more passion here than I expected. It’s one thing to be able to express your fandom by imitating your source material but quite another to truly make it your own. Think a claymation version of your favorite anime; a portrait of your favorite character done in the style of Picasso. True, some songs could have used a bit more polish, and the songs aren’t for everybody, but no one blamed Volkswagen for making a bad car.

Rating: Excellent

About the author

Aftershok A huge jazz nerd and unabashed fan of alternative rock, I joined Anime Instrumentality in December 2010. I tend to get very passionate when it comes to music and try my best to understand how it works. An enormous fan of The Pillows, among my favorite anime composers include Ko Otani and Yoko Kanno. My tastes in anime vary wildly, but I try to be as thoughtful about my viewing as I am about my listening. I play the saxophone.

10 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Valence says:

    I’m in love with Jazz again.

    Really like the Hanamaru Kindergarten 2nd OP Jazz rendition and the Pre-parade Jazz rendition. The 2nd OP was great, and the pre-parade rendition gives the theme a new burst of life you wouldn’t have seen in the original version.

  2. This album also took me awhile to get used to despite my familiarity with the stuff that Rasmus Faber did in Vol.1. A lot of the bubbly pop songs like “Bouken Desho Desho” required a bit of an adjustment since the energy isn’t that obvious out of Faber’s arrangement, but it grew on me towards the end. I also liked how a lot of songs like Ai no Field turned out. Thinking of that in a jazzy slant required a big leap, but it transitioned over really well, and props go out to Faber and his team for that.

    Also hoping that Niklas Gabrielsson plays a more involved role in vol.3 (should there be one)! Loved his performance on the first track, which in all likelihood remains my favorite.

  3. Aftershok says:

    @Valence
    I think the songs in general are fresh takes on their namesakes that breathe new life into the source material. They’re definitely not for everyone, so I’m glad you’ve taken a liking to them.

    @zzzzzeroparticle
    There’s a lot of depth in these songs that stems much from the individual level. The artists so lovingly micromanage every aspect of their performance that there’s always something to discover on a repeat listen. In that way, the songs are very organic, very human. The energy is all there, it’s just that it’s in the performance, not (always) the arrangement.

    And we’re all a little gay for Niklas Gabrielsson.

  4. Rasmus Faber says:

    Hi guys
    I just stumbled upon this review, and it was such a delight to read! The comments as well. Of course I am really happy that Mr. Aftershok enjoys the album, but the insight he has in both anime and jazz is just extraordinary, along with his writing skills, making it just such a review you want to read as an artist, regardless of the level of criticism and/or praise.

    The Platina Jazz project turned out to be more than we thought when we started vol. 1. It just grew naturally, and made me and the whole band wanting to keep on striving towards new heights when producing the sequels.
    Without saying too much, the future of Platina Jazz looks bright, and as far as Niklas Gabrielsson’s involvement goes, you will not be dissapointed.
    There is a live DVD coming out in a few months, from which there’s a teaser here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MplkNuTCLi4

    Thank you so much for the support.

    Sincerely

    /Rasmus Faber

  5. omo says:

    I meant to comment on this post a while ago when it was fresh, but better late than never, especially since Mr. Faber has made the best lead-in:

    I was excited about Vol 2. This was largely because of the promo videos on youtube about it during the peroid it was being promoted, or when it first was released. Anyway, I was pretty impressed at some of the clips, and that was my expectation going into the album once I acquired it some time before the holidays.

    The thing is, the recording was fine, but I feel that there’s this gap. And then I realize it was because a live performance, given this arrangement, was by far the more preferable format. Hopefully the live DVD of that Tokyo show would remedy this gap somewhat, but I also hope Mr. Faber and his band would take some time and visit some conventions? I think that’d be a lot of fun.

  6. Aftershok says:

    @Mr. Faber
    Wow! As your humble writer, what an awesome honor it is to have the man behind the conception of these great albums leave a comment. I’m thrilled to know that you took the time to check out the review. Thanks for your kind words. You’ve really done something unprecedented with Platina Jazz, and you have the anime community’s respect for taking on such a bold and groundbreaking endeavor, especially considering the breadth and scope of the material!

    Like omo mentioned, it’s quite a different experience to listen to jazz live, as it is a very spontaneous, audience-focused genre. That said, we would love to see your group perform at a con (or several!) here in the United States. Until we see you and your crew at venues like Anime Weekend Atlanta, though, we will have to make do with the live release, which we are greatly looking forward to (and Volume 3 even more so!). Keep on producing these great albums, because you can always be sure that you’ll have friends and fans in the anime community.

    @omo
    Jazz really is suited to being heard live, but you just can’t beat the fidelity and fine-tuned mastering of a good studio album. I think both formats have their merits, especially for jazz. And you’re not alone in wanting to see Rasmus and his crew stateside!

    And better late than never amirite?

  7. maskerade says:

    Finally got my hands on the albums after those two reviews Aftershok, and let me just say: Wow. Simply, fantastically, wow. This isn’t just anime music. This is pure, unadulterated jazz, packaged in a maelstrom of beautiful sounds and inspired arrangements. Tokyo Brass was simplistic fun, but this, this is intelligent music. It educates, inspires and hell, utter balm for the soul. Am listening to “Do you remember love” as I type this and I’m smiling all the way. Brilliant! Utterly brilliant!

    Please Mr Faber, bring your band downunder. It’s not that far from Japan!

  8. maskerade says:

    Platina 3 is coming out!!!

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