A little while ago I wrote a review of this album by Naomi Uyama and her Handsome Devils. I was all set to love this album – a fabulous band, a band leader who really knows dance music. But I didn’t. I didn’t like Naomi’s voice, and couldn’t get past it.
So I left it, and didn’t listen to it very many more times. Just enough times to actually be sure I didn’t love it.
But every time I’ve DJed since then, I’ve played this song: Take it easy greasy.
Every. Single. Set. And each time I’ve played it, I’ve found something new and good in it. There’s a moment somewhere in the first third that I noticed when I first DJed it at the MLX late night. I suddenly realised: Naomi has a rhythmic sensibility that only a very good jazz dancer could bring to a song, and it’s quite fantastic. The rest of the band really do pay attention to her, so her voice is really treated as a part of the band. I still don’t really like her voice, but I do like the way she sings. If I think of her as a part of the rhythm section, it’s all good.
I need to repeat the points I made in that first review of the album: Naomi is a really, really good band leader. And being a good band leader is what makes a band great for dancing. Someone has to give this whole collective improvisation enterprise some direction, some structure. And Naomi is one seriously hardcore arse kicker.
It’s also worth noting that she arranged some of the songs on the album. So she’s not just singing songs. She’s managing a band off-stage, she’s arranging the music, she’s leading them on stage (ie keeping that shit together in the moment), she’s selecting the right songs for the audience, AND she’s singing.
Oh, and did you know she can dance? She’s kind of ok at that.
You can smell the drive and focus on her.