Casiopea

Casiopea are a Japanese jazz-funk band that released approximately two albums per year on Alfa between 1979 and 1987. Further albums have appeared at a yearly rate in the decades since, mostly on Pioneer and Pony Canyon.

The band was formed in 1976 by guitarist/composer Issei Noro (b. Jan. 1, 1957), the one constant member across Casiopea’s forty-plus-year existence. His one prior credit is an appearance on the 1974 eponymous album by the Franken Misty Brothers Band.

Members: Issei Noro (guitar), Tetsuo Sakurai (bass, 1976-89), Hidehiko Koike (keyboards, 1976-77), Takashi Sasaki (drums, 1977-80), Minoru Mukaiya (keyboards, 1977-2006), Akira Jimbo (drums, 1980-89), 鳴瀬喜博 [Yoshihiro Naruse]


Casiopea issued its self-titled debut album in early 1979 on Alfa. It features eight Noro originals, including “Swallow,” “Space Road,” “Far Away,” and “Tears of the Star.” The lineup is rounded here by drummer Takashi Sasaki, bassist Tetsuo Sakurai, and keyboadist/vibist Minoru Mukaiya. David Sanborn and the Brecker Brothers appear on select tracks.

Casiopea’s second album Super Flight (1979)

Later that same year, Casiopea issued its second album Super Flight. It features nine originals, including “Flying,” “Olion,” and “Mighty Mouse,” the last of those with horn arrangements by Jun Fukamachi. In December 1979, the band appeared on the album Spiral Fusion by keyboardist Tatsuya Koguma.

In February 1980, Akira Jimbo assumed the drum seat and Casiopea recorded Thunder Live at ABC Hall in Shiba, Tokyo. It features six extended favorites from their then-setlist, including three numbers exclusive to this release. Also in 1980, the band released its third studio album Make Up City. It features five Noro originals, including “Life Game” and “Eyes of Mind,” plus two cuts by Jimbo and one (“Reflections of You”) by Mukaiya.

In 1981, Casiopea released its fourth studio album Eyes of the Mind. It was recorded in Los Angeles that January and produced by guest-percussionist Harvey Mason. Six months later, the band was back in Tokyo for the recording of Cross Point, once again with Mason at the console.

On the night of February 23-24, 1982, Casiopea recorded its second live album, Mint Jams, at Tokyo’s Chuo Kaikan Hall. It features two recent numbers and five long-standing favorites, including “Time Limit,” “Asayake,” and “Tears of the Star.”

In December 1982, Casiopea released its fifth studio album Four by Four. Guitarist Lee Ritenour plays on all six tracks and wrote two of them, including the slick-snapper “Transatlantic.” Bassist Nathan East and keyboardist Don Grusin also guest on the album. Noro contributed two originals this time, including the title-suited “Galactic Funk.” The album also includes a cloudy interpretation of Maurice Ravel’s “Pavane.”


Discography:

  • Casiopea (1979)
  • Super Flight (1979)
  • Make Up City (1980)
  • Thunder Live (1980)
  • Eyes of the Mind (1981)
  • Cross Point (1981)
  • Four by Four (1982)
  • Mint Jams (1982)
  • Photographs (1983)
  • Jive Jive (1983)
  • Down Upbeat (1984)
  • Halle (1985)
  • Casiopea Live (1985)
  • Landing To Summer (1986)
  • Sun Sun (1986)
  • Funky Sound Bombers (1987)
  • Platinum (1987)
  • Euphony (1988)

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