The sophomore follow-up to his famous debut, “Mellow Dream” pushes Ryo Fukui’s modal, bop sound into a vibrant but melancholy direction. Inspired by Bill Evans First Trio, the record is full of jazzy flows leading to bombastic performances. Regarded as an underrated pianist, Fukui’s composing and piano skills are on full display here.
After WWII and the cultural embargo set by the Japanese empire, a growing interest in jazz music grew in Japan, capturing the hearts of many including Ryo Fukui. The self-taught pianist from Sapporo, Ryo would begin releasing his jazz in the mid-70s. American jazz artists he grew up loving were moving more towards jazz-fusion due to a decline in mainstream popularity. However, jazz in Japan was still as popular as ever, allowing Ryo to create some of the best hard-bop and straight jazz of the decade. Many overlooked his contributions until the 2010s when internet algorithms and recommendations proliferated his music online. After his passing in 2016, his music saw a spike in popularity which would spark a niche interest in Japanese jazz.