On a seven-track release, Tokyo-born singer Yuka Mito offers variety. Her accent is very present, but she’s fluent with the language of jazz. Love in the City includes five oldies and two originals: the cheery rhyme-free title ode to New York and “Memory of Father,” which has a dignified melody, its lyric sung in Japanese (English translation provided on a paper insert). She impressively soars, scats and sashays her way through some mega-energized percolating charts (“I Got Rhythm” and “Four Brothers”), finds mid-tempo sizzle, and settles seriously into elegant balladry with Rodgers & Hart’s immortal “My Funny Valentine.” Yuka Mito’s voice is supple, with strength, as she navigates some tricky passages. (The melody of “Love Me or Leave Me” is famously full of hills and valleys.)
The musicians on the set feature the same trio she had for an earlier collection released a decade ago called Time After Time. They are a major attraction, providing both engine and support, making one want to hear them go on and on. Allen Farnham is the pianist, arranger and music director. He is joined by bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tim Horner, with Vincent Herring guesting on saxophone for “I Got Rhythm.” Some listings for this collection indicate a release with three additional tracks not on the version submitted for review.
Even if you don’t madly love everything in Love in the City, there is plenty to like in its efforts to entertain.
Tokyo native Yuka Mito started piano at six. She sang pop tunes in clubs in English and Japanese, hit the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music in her late twenties and settled into jazz around age thirty. It was a late commitment, but one destined to bear sweet fruit. Love in the City kicks off with “I Got Rhythm”, displaying from the jump Mito’s confident tone, audacious scatting and the surefooted backing of Allen Farnham (piano, arrangements), Dean Johnson (bass) and Tim Horner (drums). Farnham sticks close to the singer through the scatting and after a short introspective intro ratchets into double-time; Horner stands ready with a beguiling blend of dry snare and distant, cloudy cymbals. The following title track sounds like a long-forgotten standard, but it’s from the pen of Mito herself (with some help from Japanese-American actress and singer Monday Michiru). Rife with the giddy pleasures of street graffiti among other things, it’ll slap a grin on your face even before the rapid-ride scatting to close.
“Memory of Father”, another Mito original, stuck with me the whole time I was digesting this album. The number is entirely in Japanese, guided (she notes) by memories of her father’s love, his aging and, eventually, his passing. Her bold phrasing and sure, subtle sense of harmony sink in (even if you’re not a Japanese speaker), leaving a profound sense of awe and mystery. Mito’s reading of the standard “I’ll Remember April” builds on “Memory of Father”. It’s cheery, sprightly and nominally about romance—but more about romance’s dissipation, like fire into ashes, with nothing left but memories and how to sort through those ashes. Ultimately this song points to what the Japanese call “mono no aware”: learning to accept, and beyond that, to love within the concept that time is passing.
Review on New Jersey Jazz Society by Joe Lang – September 9, 2023
Very often, vocalists for whom English is not their primary language have an accent that can be a bit distracting when they sing in English. Yuka Mito, who is originally from Japan barely has a hint of an accent, and her superb vocalizing overcomes whatever accent comes through. Love in the City (Self-produced) is her second album. Mito has a first-rate band with pianist/arranger Allen Farnham, bassist Dean Johnson, drummer Tim Horner and saxophonist Vincent Herring. She performs four standards, “I Got Rhythm,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Love Me or Leave Me” and “I’ll Remember April;” a scat romp on “Four Brothers; and two originals, “Love in the City,” an ode to her adopted home of New York City, and “Memory of Father,” a remembrance of her father sung in Japanese. At any tempo, Mito impressively conveys the essence of the song. It took Mito twelve years after her debut album, Time After Time, to get her back in the studio. Let’s hope that the wait for her next recording is a shorter one. (www.yukamito.com)
Considering the exciting phrasing, grand emotional power, keen sense of swing and (especially) explosive scatting Yuka Mito brings to her latest album Love in the City, it might surprise folks to realize that the Tokyo born and raised singer didn’t start singing until she was 23. After performing Japanese and American pop songs in clubs, she moved to New York in her late 20s to attend the Brooklyn Queens Conservatory of Music, where she majored in jazz.
True to its title, the seven-track collection – her first album in 12 years – is clearly an homage to her adopted hometown and the way it facilitated her passion and subsequent mastery for the art form.
Working effortlessly with her longtime trio of pianist-arranger Allen Farnham, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tim Horner, she complements dazzling, high energy romps like “I Got Rhythm” (which features a little heard opening verse and literally explodes with a thunderstorm of percussive scat) and “I’ll Remember April” with a beautiful, sensitive rendering of “My Funny Valentine,” a sly stroll through “Love Me or Leave Me” and impactful originals like the spirited swinger “Love in the City” (an image-rich filled love letter to NYC) and the reflective, Japanese language ballad “Memory of Father.”
Review on Midwest Record by Chris Spector – July 2022
YUKA MITO/Love in the City: The sassy, swinging thrush reconvenes her original Allan Farnham Covid interrupted trio with a few ringers and a bigger dose of swing. Covering the water front in a way that’s clearly more club than cabaret, the knowledge, depth and appreciation for the form make this really pop. A winner that holds it’s own against all comers.
Review by Gino Moratti, Artistic Director-Jazz at Kitano – October 2013
“Ms Yuka Mito’s performance at Jazz at Kitano on 10/17/13 was superb, she captured the audience with her soulful sound on ballads and her swinging uptempo tunes. Yuka’s program consisted of a nice mixture of medium to uptempo tunes, ballads, sambas and some jazz standards done with a Latin feel all performed wonderfully”. Bravo Yuka !…..
Review on All About Jazz by Edward Blanco – February 2012
Time After Time, Yuka Mito’s second solo album, shines new light on oft-recorded songs from The Great American Songbook, adding three pop tunes and one original for a tasteful project from a Japanese vocalist with a love for jazz. Now based in New York, Mito divides her performance time between the Tokyo and New York jazz scenes. A gritty contralto and ever-so-slight accent makes her approach even more unique.
Latin jazz pianist Chiemi Nakai provides the arrangements for the title track, Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” and “Sing Sing Sing-It Don’t Mean A Thing” medley, while pianist Allen Farnham—who performs here—pens the arrangements to a host of other songs. The album begins with a sizzling rendition of Irving Berlin’s classic “Cheek to Cheek” complementing Mito’s aggressive voice with the band’s sprite instrumental work, also featuring bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tim Horner. Farnham’s terrific version of Ned Washington’s time-honored “On Green Dolphin Street” includes some unexpected but well-placed scatting, supported by an excellent piano solo…. Read More