Several years ago I purchased an album on a whim. It was by an artist named Yoshio Otomo on the Three Blind Mice record label. Nobody suggested I purchase this album. I still don't know why I took a chance on it, other than I absolutely love music. It was the best $25 I've ever spent on music. This album turned me on to a whole new world of Japanese jazz and the Three Blind Mice label. I've since been on a few obsessive missions over the years to find more TBM albums.
Three Blind Mice is a Japanese jazz label founded in 1970, and it's often called the Japanese Blue Note. The albums released on this label are nothing short of amazing. The music is great, the musicians are great, and the sound quality is great. What more can a music loving audiophile ask for? Of course, more music!
Early in January 2020, I stumbled upon the Three Blind Mice Supreme Collection 1500. This is a collection of the "best" 40 albums ever released by TBM. The albums were reissued in 10 album batches late in 2019 by Craftman records and distributed through Japan's Disk Union. I immediately searched the internet and contacted everyone I know to figure out how to get these 40 albums.
I found a few of the albums available from a couple US outlets, but nothing close to the entire collection. I contacted Disk Union about shipping to the US. That was a no-go. CD Japan said it would ship to the US, but also lacked the entire collection. Then, I heard back from a representative of Craftsman Records. He connected me with a gentleman at Disk Union and arranged my purchase and shipment of the entire 40 CD collection! Last week the collection finally arrived. Wow, what a treat.
I've been listening to these albums nearly nonstop since their arrival. I have copies on my iPhone, in my Roon library, Aurender library, and a few others. Here's how I described my situation to a good friend via email, "This is like having a world class chef hand me dessert after dessert. Each album is fantastic in its own way."
While I can't give a complete assessment of the 40 albums yet, I will list my current favorites and wish everyone the best of luck obtaining these amazing works of art.
This is the album that kicked it all off for me and it's still my favorite TBM release. One listen to the first track and I was hooked. Tamiko Kawabata's double bass opens the track, with Otomo's alto saxophone coming in shortly thereafter. Once Yamamoto joins in around the one minute mark, the track is off and running and the listen is past the point go no return. Once you've heard it, you'll want more.
Similar to how Moon Ray opens, Isoo Fukui starts it off with a deep double bass line, but this time Yamamoto enters this title track right away with some magical piano work. It's every so soft, but also features great transients and provides a very real sense of being in a jazz club. The entire album is pure magic.
Tsuyoshi Yamamoto is the star of this show. And to think he was a self-taught pianist! There isn't a track on the album that I skip over. The sound quality is also fantastic, with a dynamic range score of DR 12.
This album features Hidefumi Toki on soprano saxophone with a band including a guitarist and at times an organist. It has a much different feel from the previous TBM albums on my list. A couple of the tracks have quite a bit going on, with the entire band hitting on all cylinders. Three of the five tracks are more about finesse and enabling a couple instruments such as Toki's sax and the bass to really shine.
This album starts with an eerie feel on the track Aqua Marine, but it's terrifically eerie. Suzuki's cello, Sugano's electric piano, and Otsuka on percussion, weave a web of somewhat strange sounds that come together and sound wonderful on a HiFi system. The middle three tracks on the album are much more like traditional jazz, with a Japanese style. The last two go off in a different direction from anything previous on the album. It's all terrific stuff though.
I have to include this one because it would be a shame not to. It's the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio again and it's much more typical music from this too than the Isao Suzuki Trio mentioned above. This is just another very solid jazz record that sounds great.
The first two tracks on this album are a bit off the wall, but in a really cool way. The opening track has an unmistakable psychedelic electric piano opening that may turn some traditionalist listeners off, but it's right up my alley. The rest of the band Kazumi Watanabe (guitar), Isao Fukui (bass), Tetsujiro Obara (drums), Yuji Imamura (percussion) are all as tight as can be. The entire album is great, with my favorite track, number three, Blue Impulse. This track starts like a more traditional jazz effort. Imada's beautifully soft piano solo for the first two minutes, followed by Fukui taking control on his bass. They all get together toward the middle of the track, then about 8:40 into the track Imamura lets lose on the drums for a wonderful, pounding, but brief solo. What a great album.
One last album for the list. I was just in my car playing the entire 40 CD collection on shuffle, and I heard the Terumasa Hino Quintet album Live! (TBM-17) track titled Be and Now. What an amazing and eclectic piece of music. The album was recorded live at Yubin-Chokin Hall in Tokyo on June 2, 1973. This specific track is a "slow burn" but those with patience will be rewarded with some fabulous music, fabulous musicians, and fabulous sound quality.