Nautilus – Nautiloid Quest
(Agogo Records AR091 – LP/CD/digital review by Mark McKergow)
Japanese drum-led piano trio Nautilus make their overseas debut with this engaging compilation of their beats first, hook second, solo third brand of jazz – a kind of modern ‘rare groove’, very easy to enjoy and annoyingly hummable.
Formed in 2014 by drummer Toshiyuki Sasaki, Nautilus take their name (and a good deal of inspiration) from the Bob Janes track of the same name, originally released on CTI Records in 1974. A filler track on the album One, this sparse grooving ever-changing recording was rediscovered decades later by hip-hop and sampling acts, and the original Nautilus has now been sampled nearly 300 times. Interestingly, there is no one moment from the track that people use – sections from across the track have been used by different artists, including A Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC and Soul II Soul.
The group Nautilus keep a simple trio format based on keyboard (often Rhodes piano), bass and drums, augmented from time to time with guest vocalists. The collection features 12 numbers compiled from their first two Japan-released CDs plus 45s and B-sides, and shows off the group’s sound and talent to advantage. The band begin by emphasising their jazzy credentials with an instrumental cover of the Roy Ayers classic We Live In Brooklyn Baby, the juicy bass guitar of Shigeki Umezawa sharing lead duties. The band throw in some interesting tempo jumps, speeding up and slowing down towards the end in what sounds like a fully played (rather than edited) performance.
Several of the trio numbers are based on ear-worm hook lines which drill their way into your brain, persisting as the chords and changes progress below. I.G.V is one such tune, with effective keyboard soloing from classically-trained Daisuke Takeuchi who also provides synth sweeps and added textures. The Theme of Nautilus dances along with plenty of good tension-and-release moments, tight grooves making way for more relaxed and expansive sections which certainly keeps the interest going. Atlantis is all shimmery Rhodes over a jumping beat from Sasaki, building into more and more sweeping drum-led chorus phrases.
Three of the tracks feature guest female vocalists, and this adds to the variety. Mizuki Kamata adds a close up breathy exposed vocal to Tom’s Diner, a bit ‘Astrid Gilberto meets the big beat’. Kei Owada adds indie insouciance to Lady Day and John Coltrane, riding Sasaki’s rhythmic shifts effectively, while Sara Yoshida heads for power ballad territory on Good Enough. All three of these songs have great potential.
Because it’s the 21st century, all of this music can be previewed on the Agogo Records website – check it out. And yes, the band do offer their take on Bob Janes’ original Nautilus composition too. I’d love to see them over in Europe for some shows. Domo arigato, Nautilus!
LINK : The album on Agogo Records