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Debut album from Japanese artist Sakai casts indelible spell with subtly pretty take on bossa nova
(Published: November 12, 2011)

As the chilly bite of winter cuts through the faded memory of summer, music can provide some much-needed warmth. Listening to Sakai's debut album, Gradation - Bossa Nova No Kaze, blankets the soul with its coffeehouse charms, a mellow yet upbeat collection of Brazilian jazz, ‘60s Japanese pop, and folk. The subtly pretty music is given emotional depth by Sakai's comforting, heartfelt croon.

Sakai's dream-weaving acoustic guitars cast an indelible spell on the first two tracks alone. Although the lyrics are in Japanese, there's no denying the universal appeal of "Gura to Baku." Sakai's fragile delivery caresses the ears with a silky touch; his guitar playing is stunningly beautiful, creating layers of transcendent melody. The sweeping "Natsu No Omide" is dazzling with Sakai's crystalline riffs and haunting vocals. Because bossa nova has so often been performed by cookie-cutter acts recently that labeling Sakai as such doesn't do justice to the lovely craftsmanship of his compositions.

Not only does Sakai completely understand the qualities that make bossa nova tick, he isn't afraid to work outside the box. On "Esperanza," Sakai unleashes some wonderfully bluesy guitars that add rough edges to the song's snappy rhythms. "Manhattan Rain," on the other hand, is brimming with late-evening atmospherics. His voice deepens as well, capturing the darkly seductive pull of city life at night.

Born in Shizuoka, Japan in 1966, Sakai launched his career as a professional guitarist in 1989 in Tokyo. You can hear the decades of experience in his masterful touch on every cut on Gradation - Bossa Nova No Kaze.

More Information: http://www.masafumisakai.com

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