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Sarah Maeda  “FROM MY SOUL

Written by: Hiromi Go

Given that Maceo Parker describes his own music as [2 percent jazz and 98 percent funk], what ratio would be applied to Sarah Maeda, who also plays the alto saxophone? Recently, she has made her debut with “FROM MY SOUL.” The description on her profile reads “Her emotional blowing and poignant playing are stunning – the funky and soulful saxophonist,” and that is no exaggeration.

Maeda was born in the city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture (located on the island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan), grew up in a church family, and familiarized herself with music from an early age. Later, she became fascinated with the saxophone, and after moving to Tokyo at the age of 16, instead of going to high school, she started to work part time and play her saxophone at churches, on the streets, and at music venues. Since then, she’s been devoted to improve her techniques through the constant interactions with various musicians. Owing to those efforts, she formed her own band at the age of 19. Around that time, she visited the U.S. for an event at a church event and met Ron Brown - who is famous for playing for the Duke Ellington Orchestra as well as bands of other great artists such as Stevie Wonder, and who is also known for his brilliant works in gospel and jazz - ending up taking saxophone lessons from him. Also around the same time, when she was practicing on a street, her performance caught the eyes of Tatsuya Nakamura (musician/drummer/actor/former member of rock band BLANKEY JET CITY) who then chose her to be a supporting member of one of his bands, the day. Those life-changing encounters helped her move forward in her music career. Still, it’s all because the emotions and energy emitted from her playing have something that attracts those prominent musicians. And in this album, we should be able to see how talented she really is.

前田サラ FROM MY SOUL ビクター(2015)

And for this album “FROM MY SOUL,” Ricky Peterson joined the team as producer, and the recording took place in his home ground, Minneapolis. Peterson is known as a big-shot keyboardist who has played with David Sanborn or Ben Sidran, but here we should remember him as the brain who supported Prince during the 90s. As we mentioned earlier, the impression of this album as a funky soul instrumental piece has a lot in common with Maceo’s music, and it’s partly because Peterson shows his funk side on this album. Those who came at his request were Peterson’s younger brother Paul Peterson (bass), Joe Elliott (guitar), Michael Bland (drums), Jason Peterson DeLaire (sax), and Jeff Carver (trumpet). The Prince fans probably can’t help getting excited with seeing the names such as St. Paul, the former member of The Family, and Michael the former NPG member.

With such being the band, the album begins with its vigorously sprinting opening track “Amen,” with the rendition close to the version by The Winstons known for the famous . Following that, Kirk Franklin’s “Brighter Day” gently uplifts the listeners’ spirits, and the flow of the tracks exhibits the spirits of Maeda who has her roots in gospel. Also in the first half are some other cover versions of well-known numbers such as “Simple Song” by Sly & the Family Stone, demonstrating her dynamic presence that measures up to the backup band.

In the latter half after “Can't Turn You Loose” by Otis Redding, Maeda’s original numbers, such as the above-average funky tune “Only One Boss”, are proudly lined up. She also plays in the band BIM BAM BOOM, which is like a Japanese female version of The Meters, and the funk elements flowing in her vessels are well extracted and shown on this album as well. Needless to say, not only her up-tempo numbers but also melodious graceful phrasings, as in the title track or the final track “Starlight”, are impressive and unforgettable.

The immediate impression one might get, for example, may be something in the like of “Is this really a newcomer?” or “This is played by a woman?” However, as you keep listening, such trivial things will flee from your brains. Maeda’s performance given her 100% made Peterson even say, “In Sarah’s music, I feel the same kind of blues as David Sanborn’s at the roots”, and going forward, her music is bound to reach more people and touch their hearts.