Akira Sakata & Jim O’Rourke with Chikamorachi

…and that's the Story of Jazz
Family Vineyard FV78

Benjamin Duboc/Itaru Oki

Nobusiko

Improvising Beings ib01

KuRuWaSan

KuRuWaSan

Quintoquarto QQ002

Globe Unity: Japan

By Ken Waxman

With Japan’s year filled with disasters both geographical – an earthquake and a tsunami – and societal –political instability and falling interest rates – it’s heartening to hear CDs proving that musicians’ improvisational skills are still advanced. The sessions are also noteworthy, because like relief efforts, their success is due to collaborations with foreigners.

Trumpeter Itaru Oki moved to France in 1974 and he and bassist Benjamin Duboc work together frequently. On Nobusiko Duboc uses the bass’s percussive qualities to maintain a chromatic bottom as Oki splutters split tones. Pointed bass plucks match rubato brass squeaks, while steady walking accompanies tongue flutters.” Oki thickens brass shrieks with multi-flute resonations as Duboc thumps his instrument’s wood on “Ihoujin”. Duboc’s stops not only mute Oki’s note squalling at the end, but also move the duet towards melody.

Akira Sakata, who has released 35 discs since 1969, dedicated …and that's the Story of Jazz to a friend missing since the tsunami. The alto saxophonist has worked with noise experts like bassist Bill Laswell, and he extends that concept with drummer Chris Corsano and bassist Darin Gray of Chikamorachi, and Jim O'Rourke on guitar, harmonica and electronics. No conventional melodies appear; rather tension without release. “Kyoto” finds O’Rourke’s choked guitar strings spurring the reedist to staccato screams as. Gray hammers his four strings and Corsano smacks powerfully. Sakata’s nephritic growls also create a menacing interface, when paired with the guitarist’s slurred fingering. If Sakata introduces “Nagoya 3” with unforced clarinet trills, paramount stimulation is soon attained. Luckily the result is more exhilarating than exaggerated.

KuRuWaSan’s memorable CD pairs tuba gusts from Osaka’s Daysuke Takaoka with Brussels-based reedist Grégoire Tirtiaux, keyboardist Pak Yan Lau and drummer João Lobo. The eponymous album references parade rhythms, microtonalism and electronica. On “Baking”, Lau’s kinetic piano patterns brush up against tuba bellows as Lobo bounces. “Traffic Jam” finds Lau pulsating electric piano plinks plus resonating organ washes as Tirtiaux’s breathy flute lines challenge Lobo’s slide-whistle squeals. The disc climaxes with “Trilogy”. Surrounding a protracted pause are variants that include piano soundboard scrapes plus ascending drums rolls pushed aside by pedal-point tuba and saxophone tongue slaps. The result is restrained and exhibitionist in equal measures.

—For New York City Jazz Record December 2011

Tracks: Nobusiko: Shyukendo; Fudo; Harawata; Rindo; Yamabusi Tengu no Akubi; Ikoujin Siwasu

Personnel: Nobusiko: Itaru Oki: trumpet, flugelhorn, reed flute and tube; Benjamin Duboc: bass

Tracks: Story: Disc One: Kyoto; Hanamaki; Disc Two: Nagoya 1; Nagoya 2; Nagoya 3

Personnel: Story: Akira Sakata: alto saxophone, clarinet and vocals; Jim O’Rourke: guitar, harmonica and electronics; Darin Gray: bass, percussion and bells; Chris Corsano: drums

Tracks: Kuruwasan: 1. Schröder 2. Pão de Leite 3. Traffic Jam 4. Baking 5. Eclaire 6. Galão 7. Interlude 8. Trilogy

Personnel: Kuruwasan: Daysuke Takaoka : tuba, balloon, neyzan tuba: Grégoire Tirtiaux: singing bowls, shengn, nose and hunter’s flutes; alto and baritone saxophones, bird call, cocodi diaquetic; Pak Yan Lau: prepared piano, pianet, organ, electronics; João Lobo: drums and sliding flute

—For New York City Jazz Record December 2011