Album Review of
Beyond The Sea

Label: Miles High

Genres: Jazz

Styles: Mainstream Jazz

Written by Joe Ross
November 8, 2023 - 4:52pm EST
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As an overseas military brat growing up in Japan for twelve years in the 1950s and 60s, I often tuned into Japan’s TV musical shows and even sang along with the hits of the Peanuts, Blue Comets, Golden Cups and Village Singers. Our rock, blues and soul bands made up of American high school kids were also quite a novelty and managed to keep busy playing regularly at base teen clubs, parties, discos, restaurants and festivals. English is a compulsory subject through junior high school in Japan, and many Japanese students enjoyed practicing their English with me on our train rides home.

Japan’s love of all things western was quite apparent, and it’s certainly a pleasure to hear bi-lingual Japanese vocalist Masumi Ormandy cover some classics from the Great American Songbook. I never tire of popular songs like “Beyond the Sea,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Smile,” “Sentimental Journey,” “Tea for Two,” “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” “I’m Through with Love,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” These are songs that clearly have a lot of meaning for Ormandy, and she delivers them with her very own evocative personality and feeling. She can relate to a ballad like Shirley Horn’s signature song, “Here’s to Life,” as well as present an upbeat and joyful swinging “Sentimental Journey” with a copious amount of pizazz.

Singing with concision and conviction, Ormandy also includes both English and Japanese lyrics in two tracks, “Like a River Flowing” (written by Akira Mitake and Yasushi Akimoto; English lyrics by Steve Sacks, New York saxophonist and member of Ormandy’s Tokyo quintet) and “Ringo No Uta” (Apple Song), a beloved Japanese song composed by Tadashi Manjyome and with lyrics by Hachiro Sato. English lyrics were written by New York pianist Jonathan Katz, Ormandy’s Tokyo bandleader.

Many of these classic songs are no doubt real favorites in Japanese karaoke bars too, but Masumi Ormandy does it right on her third album with some of the best session musicians that New York has to offer. She made her 2016 debut, at age 77, with her album Sunshine in Manhattan. She has performed in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy, USA, Austria, and of course Japan. Recorded in New York City, Beyond the Sea includes Allen Farnham (piano, synthesizer), Dean Johnson (bass), Tim Horner (drums), Houston Person (tenor sax), Bria Skonberg (trumpet), John Allred (trombone), Danny Bacher (soprano sax), Chieli Minucci (guitar), Paul Meyers (guitar), Tim Ries (tenor sax), Anders Bostrom (flute), Mino Cinelu (percussion). Star violinist Sara Caswell and cellist Jody Redhage Ferber are featured on the orchestral arrangements.  Beyond the Sea has already achieved a #38 spot on The Roots Music Report's Top 50 Jazz Album Chart, and we may even see it climb higher.

Ormandy’s music training began at conservatories in Tokyo and San Francisco when she was young.  Marrying an American, she quit her music studies and together they founded the Pacific Language School in Tokyo, which offers English language instruction for Japanese students of all ages. Ormandy’s jazz vocal career began when she came from Japan to New York to study with vocalist Roseanna Vitro.

Masumi Ormandy’s Beyond the Sea displays passion, conviction, commitment and dedication to America’s jazz music. Her compelling music and artistry particularly shine with her band of top-rated New York musicians. For more info about Masumi Ormandy, check out her Facebook Page, You Tube Channel or contact her record label, Miles High Records. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)