François Carrier/Masayo Koketsu/Daisuka Fuwa/Takashi Itani

Japan Suite
NoBusiness Records NBCD 125

Probably Canada’s most peripatetic improvising musician, Montréal alto saxophonist François Carrier is as likely to be playing in London or Krakow as any Canadian city. Continuing his international journeys Japan Suite was recorded in Saitama and is an unusual entry in Carrier’s discography for two reasons. First his long-time associate, Canadian drummer Michel Lambert didn’t make the trip. Second among his Japanese associates is another alto saxophonist, Masayo Koketsu. Considering that Carrier has fit his ideas to the conceptions of players such as John Edwards to Alexey Lapin, breaches aren’t noticeable.

Taking Lambert’s place is percussionist Takashi who has worked with Satoko Fujii. Bassist Daisuke Fuwa has played with Shiro Onuma and Hideki Tachibana, while Koketsu has collaborated with Isao Suzuki and Shibusa Shirazu,

While Koketsu’s tone is often as edgy as Carrier’s, the supposition is that throughout the six tracks it’s the Canadian whose improvisations are more atonal. Both the extended “Uchi-soto” and the briefer “Rakuyou” for instance, feature sleek and unhurried reed introductions out of the Cool School and only disengage to dissident dialogues when the second saxophone enters with snarling split tones. With the bass pulse assured but understated, Itani on the first tune amplifies his backing from gentle bell shakes to cymbal echoes and drum spills. Both saxophonists propel bee-buzzing drones, tongue slaps and squeals, but harsh overblowing never supersedes fluid theme extension. It’s the same with “Rakuyou”, although separation between committed reed atonality and saxophone experimentation is almost non-existent. Buoyed by percussion plops the two introduce extended techniques including tongue slaps, flutter tonguing and spetrofluctuation, fracturing the exposition as they spray multiple note strategies. The final two minutes finds one saxophonist shrilling single notes as the other burbles in frothy low-pitched sound waves. Stop-time accents from the rhythm section preserve mid-range ambulation.

It appears that reed interpretations from someone born in Quebec and someone born in Gifu Prefecture can evolve productively along similar lines during organic performances like these. Additionally whether the situation calls for advances, delays, stridency or calm, Itani and Fuwa contribute appropriate modulations. Profound free form sounds transcend race, gender and nationality. Japan Suite confirms this.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Uchi-soto (Inside Outside) 2. Kacho-fugetsu (Flower, bird, wind, moon) 3. Rakuyou (Falling Leaves) 4. Ogose (Town Ogose) 5. Yuzu (Citron) 6. Kaze To Kumo Ni Noboru (Climb the Wind and Clouds)

Personnel: François Carrier and Masayo Koketsu (alto saxophone); Daisuke Fuwa (bass) and Takashi Itani (drums and percussion)