Boomkat Product Review:
Enchanting introduction to the exquisite, smoky melancholy of a Japanese jazz and blues singer/songwriter/composer who collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto and penned some 30 solo albums, yet is scarcely known in the West.
Born 1942 in a small, northern Japanese fishing village, Maki grew up during the era of American occupation and cultural imperialism, eventually moving to Tokyo and nurturing a passion for the records of Billie Holliday and Mahalia Jackson, which would lead her to perform on US military bases and cabarets and subsequently cover many US traditional folk and blues for the Japanese market.
With her distinctive, husky croon, aching songs and head-to-toe black outfits, she's seemingly possessed by the spirit of her heroes - Billie, Nina, Mahlia among them - and apparently had the mysterious countenance to match her unusual aesthetic.
We'll have to take that for granted from Hitoshi Jin Tamura's photos and Alan Cummings' enlightening liner notes, but Maki's music remains the best gauge of her character, taking in big band experiments along with an amazing, sitar-lead psych-out, plus runs into modal, spiritual jazz and the kind of lounge styles that prompt imagery of Bill Murray or some lonely salaryman clutching a single malt in the shadows of a Tokyo bar.