December 25, 2012
Abdelhaï Bennani/Itaru Oki/Alan Silva/Makoto Sato
New Today, New Everyday
Improvising Beings ib13
Meticulous idealism can sometimes have as ill-advised an effect as cynical indifference as this partially indispensible two-CD set demonstrates. Paris-based tenor saxophonist Abdelhaï Bennani, although possessing an individual take on Free Jazz, records infrequently. So that anything he, and associates like Japanese trumpeter Itaru Oki and drummer Makoto Sato do, is worthy of note. And in fact with New Today, New Everyday the three veterans have come up with a notable session of profound, energetic sounds.
The problem is that outstanding, cognitive improvising only appears on the second of two discs in the program, when Alan Silva, the expatriate American Free Jazz pioneer joins the trio on three tracks collected as Childhood Dream Life. Recorded two months earlier in the same Parisian atelier, the previous three performances seem understated and uncoordinated; so tentative in execution that they could be rehearsal tapes.
Although by the final section Oki chimes in with some mouthpiece oscillation and tremolo flutters, while Bennani’s previously strangled glossolalia becomes a bit more assertive and intense, ennui is the order of the day. Sato’s recoiling flams and ruffs do little more than underline the general listlessness. Even staccato reed breaths and bugle-like grace notes are barely audible rather than lyrically expressive.
These misfires are puzzling. Late coming to improv, the Fèz, Morocco-born saxophonist has still recorded notable earlier sessions with guitarist Camel Zekri and bassist Benjamin Duboc and drummer Didier Lasserre. Meanwhile the 70-year-old Itaru has followed his own path since the late 1960s, initially as one of Japan’s first experimental Jazzers with his own bands and later in Paris-located configuration such as Nuts, which includes American trumpeter Rasul Siddik, Duboc, Lasserre and Sato, the last of whom also toils as a writer about food and restaurants.
Maybe the presence of Silva, now 73, whose list of collaborators range from Sun Ra and Albert Ayler on one continent, to Roger Turner and Johannes Bauer on the other, and who has also lived in France since the late 1960s, is the spark needed for the others. Certainly as soon as his synthesizer outputs an oscillating bass line on “Take Time, Play the Game” Oki’s mid-range puffing develops some capillary muscle and speed; Sato’s beats become more focused and harder; and Bennani’s timbres transform from tentative squeals to expansive honks, slurs and split tones. Operating in counterpoint the transparency of the trumpeter’s sparing grace notes are clear alongside the saxophonist’s pronounced glossolalia. Climax is achieved when Silva’s pedal point turns out expressive Sun Ra-like space chords, churning and ejaculating tremolo lines as Sato beats out flams and ruffs.
The suddenly galvanized trio is animated enough during the remainder of the session to jockey from uncommon technical feats, such as Oki’s strident mouthpiece kisses and Bennani’s pressurized bites, to toy with legato pronouncements. With Silva somehow managing to create the sounds of both string-bending and keyboard comping, in response Oki’s vibrations turn muted and on “Life First, A Dream” he clearly quotes “Bag’s Groove”. That doesn’t means that rubato brays or unaccented air pushed through the trumpet without valve action, the saxophonist’s staccato singular slurs nor the drummer’s cymbal rebounds or crackling slaps are abandoned, they just have more of a context in which to be displayed.
After interludes when both horn men sound as if they’re playing with their instruments’ bells pressed against metal plates, the massed vibrato from Silva’s synth overrides the friction-ridden polytonality, concluding with a distanced interface that is easy-going at the same time as it maintains its pressurized thrusts.
Committed followers of Bennani Oki and Sato may rate the first CD higher. But overall CD2 appears to contain a group of intuitive improvisations shacked to what could be rehearsal squibs on CD1.
Track Listing: CD1: 1. Birth 2. Tribes 3. East West Ends CD2*: 1. Take Time, Play the Game 2. Life First, A Dream 3. More Is Different
Personnel: Itaru Oki (trumpet, flugelhorn, flutes), Abdelhaï Bennani (tenor saxophone); Alan Silva (synthesizer)* and Makoto Sato (drums)