Sakata-Yermmenoglou-Di Domenico-Damiandis

Hōryū-Ji
el NEGOCITO eNR 091/MN 004

Clichés about music being a universal language confirm their veracity on this prime slice of free improvisation. That’s because this live performance named for an important Japanese Buddhist temple, yet recorded in a Thessaloniki, Greece club, features veteran Japanese multi-reedist Akira Sakata; Brussels-based, Italian-born pianist Giovanni Di Domenico; Thessaloniki-native, guitarist Giotis Damianidis who now lives in Brussels; and percussionist Christos Yermenoglou, who teaches music at the university in that Greek city.

While a first meeting as a quartet, each improviser has some history with one or more of the other players and each is skilled in the improvisational byways. Sakata has worked with players from Paal Nilssen-Love to Masahiko Satoh; Yermenoglou with Sakis Papadimitriou and Antonis Anissegos; Damianidis with Balasz Pandi and Gonzalo Almeida; and Di Domenico with Chris Corsano and Peter Jacquemyn.

Fused as this quartet, the four use their somewhat unusual instrumentation to create distinctive sonic variables during the CD’s two extended tracks. Equipped to use the full extent of knob-twisting distortions and flanges from the guitar, Damianidis, who elsewhere plays bass, less obviously adds strums from his lower-pitched strings to preserve the groove if needed. Yermenoglou’s thin buzzes and echoes from additional percussion help color sequences that are also prodded by his steady beat. Meantime Sakata’s clarinet trills add a moderated Pied Piper-like stability to the second track, confirmed by bell-ringing and conga-like pumps from the drummer. However his subsequent clenched-throat growls confirm his atonal synthesis, which is also exhibited throughout the CD as his reeds trill, peep and heave split tones in altissimo and clarion pitches. Not to be outdone, Di Domenico clatters kinetic keyboard variations with the speed and pressure of a 19th Century recitalist, while also encompassing progressive strums that include slippery pianism, that create eddies of concentric patterning from emphasized timbres.

Pulling together hammered and stopped piano keys, socking ruffs from the drummer, upward reed squeals and doubled plucks from the guitarist, the quartet exist with a finale that is almost apocalyptic in its power, but with enough sprawling technical finesse to confirm the musical urbanity of the players.

Universal and overwhelming, what other adjectives would you want to describe a session such as Hōryū-Ji?

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. (24.57) 2. (26:01)

Personnel: Akira Sakata (alto saxophone, clarinet, bells and voice); Giovanni Di Domenico (piano); Giotis Damianidis (guitar) and Christos Yermenoglou (drums and percussion)