Distorted electric keyboards, tinted with wah-wah effects. Chattering electric bass. A heavy backbeat. "BWV," the first track on "Fragile," tells everything we should know about Junko Onishi's new thing. The pianist, the first Japanese artist to lead her own band at the Village Vanguard, has made a startling leap from sublime acoustic post-bop to sonic terrain largely associated with '70s fusion and contemporary groove-jazz. Onishi's managers and purist fan base may have yelped at this unexpected change in direction.
"Fragile," which has the pianist joined by bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Karriem Riggins, nevertheless amounts to a jam-intensive adventure sparked by originals and several interpretations of classic '60s pop songs. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (clocking in at over 11 minutes!) charms with a reggae beat, while gospel tinges color the R&B of "Compared to What." "Hey Joe" does an enchanting slow burn and "Sunshine of Your Love" is as in-your-face as the Cream original. Who would've thunk it?