TATSU AOKI

The Miyumi Project
Southport/Asian Improv S-SSD 0078

Despite all the experiments attempting to fuse Jazz with other musics, only a handful have attempted what may be the most logical partnering of all — mixing African- American and Asian-American sounds. But this fine CD sets out to redress the situation.

Like other musicians traversing the borders between the two — most notably Jason Hwang in New York, Jon Jang and Francis Wong on the West Coast — bassist Tatsu Aoki emphasizes the two sounds' shared percussive tradition. Not that he merely shoves the two together like slightly uneven jigsaw puzzle pieces, though. Since Aoki —Japanese-born, but Chicago-based — regularly works with such masters of the tradition as veteran saxophonist Fred Anderson he's not afraid to add a patina of experimentation on top of the other sounds.

His associates on this project — named for one of his daughter — are no less significant, as well. Paramount among them is multi-reedist Mwata Bowden — a charter member of the AACM's outstanding little big band, 8 Bold Souls — who also partners Aoki in the aptly named Power Trio.

With his command of all registers of the baritone saxophone, his favored instrument, Bowden constantly matches the constant, low pitched of the three percussionists, successfully navigating a path for himself when Aoki switches to the taiko. "Color Coordination", for instance, could even be heard as a Latin American tune, with the reedman bouncing on top of what in other contexts could be congas and bass drums. Contrast that with the baritone's solo melding with Aoki's strings on "Floating Weeds". There are even time he uses the bulky horn's natural echo to create a bagpipe-like drone, subtly adding yet another ethnicity to the gestalt

"Early Dance," is the defining composition however. Using only traditional instruments, the music created is so variegated that it's often impossible to tell which device is playing or whether a certain created sound arises from something being struck, plucked or blown. Eurocentric improvisers often use electronics and/or special tuning to create such an effect; it arises naturally in this context.

Aoki's daughter should certainly be proud of this effort named in her honor. Moreover, if you're interested in yet another way that the music we call Jazz is muting, then this CD should be on your must-buy list.

—Ken Waxman Track Listing: 1. Movement 2. Kuordabushi 3. River 4. Color Coordination 5. Early Dance 6. Floating Weeds 7. Ink Erasers 8. Fast Ride 9. Apology

Personnel: Mwata Bowden (baritone saxophone, clarinet, digeridoo); Robbie Hunsinger (oboe, shenai, sona); Tatsu Aoki (bass, taiko [Japanese drum]); Paul Kim (buk [Korean drum]); Patti Adachi (taiko); Hide Yoshihashi (shime [high-pitched Japanese drum])