I can’t tell you the last time I put so much thought into one album, and the words I might say about it…
Gyakuten Saiban (Phoenix Wright) is a fantastic series of handheld games, and its music is equally fantastic. Each game has featured a different composer, many of them being newcomers to the scene (except Iwadare of Gyakuten Saiban 3, who is a prolific composer). In late 2006, an orchestra arrange album was published under the direction of Iwadare-san. I loved this album, and apparently many other fans did too, because Iwadare decided to follow up with a jazz arranged album.
Granted, most songs in the Gyakuten Saiban scores would fit jazz better than orchestra anyway. But I was inclined to believe that nothing could trump the orchestra album, which I really enjoyed, even with its flaws in recording technique/quality (it sounded “flat”). So I listened to this album. And I said, “yeah, it doesn’t live up to the previous album.” And then I listened some more, and I changed my tune. But then I wavered on the line for awhile: which is the better arrange album?
And after all that thinking, and debating, all with the assumption that I would have to rank these arrange albums from Iwadare, I finally decided to drop the whole “comparison” scenario and talk about this album without even thinking about the previous one.
I’ve probably listened to this CD a good thirty times. And I’ve fallen in love with it. The funny thing about that is this: I normally wouldn’t enjoy it. It’s not the sort of jazz I like. I like eccentric, modern, atonal, bebop-ish jazz. This album? It’s a cross between radio-friendly “smooth” jazz and something a good high school/college jazz band would play. The format is pretty simple: play a jazz-laden version of the original song, throw in a few solos in the middle, and then come out with guns blazin’ at the end for a nice finale. The only exception to the rule are medley pieces (there are four: the three “blue notes/scales on trial” songs, and the “Objection!” medley that spans the first three games). The medley pieces will have a little bit of solo room, but mostly it’s a move from one melodic theme to the next, at a fairly brisk pace.
Speaking of pace, however, I have to stop and remind the reader that the songs which I found most impressive were the two slow pieces. These are “Tonosaman” and “Godot” from Gyakuten Saiban 1 and 3, respectively. The arrangements fit so well for these songs, it’s no wonder Iwadare chose them to be on this album.
The medley tracks are also excellent. They present a good recap of the standard, most-often remembered music from the games: the courtroom music. The only track I didn’t like was the final track, a piece from Gyakuten Saiban 4. The song was way too bouncy, and didn’t fit the mood of this jazz album one bit.
If you played any of the Phoenix Wright games, and you enjoyed those awfully catchy melodies, you’re going to love them in live jazz band format. Give this album a try.