Thursday at Amoeba Records here in L.A., the city where the future comes to die, I happened upon a 5.99 Japanese CD that appeared as if it might hold some promise: Super Harmony by Time Five. Time who?
The songs listed on the back made the CD even more problematic; the repertoire ran the gamut from the sublime, "Stardust," to the ridicurous, "Davy Crockett," with stops in between for the varied likes of Stephens Bishop and Foster, etc. The remainder of the text was in Japanese, but the CD clearly seemed to contain vocal group singing of some sort. Would it be more like Jackie and Roy or. . . the dread Marty and Elayne? What the hell! It was only six bucks and so I snagged it!
Playing it in the car on the way home, I liked it. Close to a lot.The next day, I showed the CD booklet to my friend Jay, who reads Japanese. "Reads Japanese," hell. IS Japanese!
He had not heard of them either, but he perused the booklet and learned that they were a Japanese Four Freshmen-styled group when they began in 1968. And still are Frosh-like when they are not plying an a cappella approach as they do on this CD.
I also discovered that up through 2001, for 18 years straight, they were voted top vocal group in Japan in the Swing Journal poll. Altogether they have won 21 times. Time Five has also been given a very prestigious Japanese cultural award, the Monbu-Daijin, by the Secretary of Education. All still original members. They have released a couple dozen albums, and sung on over a thousand commercials. And were the first Japanese vocalists to perform at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. Appeared at the Glenn Miller Jazz Festival in Iowa in '94 and '96. I should know this stuff.
So many CDs, so little time. In the future I've decided to refer to Time Five as "T5," as if I'd known of 'em all along. Gotta hang on to my Japanese jazz creds.
They have a web site, not to mention a music school. Here's what they sound like (mp3 links for a limited time only).