Japan’s Free Jazz Heyday Remembered

Although the article is rather like the result of looking at a photo of a photo of a photo, Pierre Crépon’s review of Teruto Soejimabook, Free Jazz in Japan: A Personal History, gives some idea of that country’s fertile experimental music scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Appearing in Point of Departure now that the 2002 book has been translated into English, the review introduces a gallery of Free Jazz pioneers who were responsible for presenting and disseminating the sounds, first in Tokyo, then in other parts of the country, and with middling success, overseas. A few names, such as trumpeters Itaru Oki and Toshinori Kondo, pianist Masahiko Sato and saxophonists Akira Sakata and Kaoru Abe, may be known by non-Japanese Jazz followers mostly through their expatriation to Europe and collaboration with similar, far-sighted, usually German or French players. Abe is a special case though, because of his short-lived self-destructive lifestyle. Anything but the last word on the subject, Crépon’s scholarship about the contemporary political and societal situation in Japan at the time and Soejima’s personal knowledge of what happened, provide a good introduction. Further, more rigorous scholarship on the subject is needed though.