Trio San

April 3, 2024

Jazzdor Series 20

Saito Roder Grenier
Trouble in the East TITE REC 029

Now Berlin-based, Japanese vibraphonist Taiko Saito divides her time between notated and improvised music with projects as different as Silke Eberhard’s Potsa Lotsa XL and the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra. Part of several combos, these trio sessions show her diverse roles in creative music settings.

Wald links her with bassist Jan Roder and percussionist Michael Griener, two of Germany’s busiest Jazz and improv players, where her vibes take the role that’s usually for a chordal instrument. As part of the Trio San, she adds marimba resonations to her vibraphone mallet forays. Her partners are Strasbourg-based drummer Yuko Oshima, who plays with the likes of Eve Risser, and Tokyo-based pianist Satoko Fujii whose numerous associates encompass Europe, Asia and North America.

Roder’s supple pacing and Grenier’s subtle drum pings onGhosts of the Midnight Wood”, Wald’s first track set up the parameters for the trio. Gradually advancing from andante to allegro, Saito’s circular mallet patterning expanded the exposition’s definition so that silent interludes and singular metal bar pops intersect with buzzing bass arco tones and bell-tree shakes from the percussionist that add color as well as rhythm to the process.

This transformation continues throughout, as the aluminum bar and resonator pops provide a softening of the otherwise rhythm section-oriented narratives. Using the pivots from string rubs on the vibes and simple drum clanks and clatters, other pieces emphasize atmospheric shakes or balladic passages. There’s even a point at the end ofTyphoons and Windbreaks” when a walking bass line and drum backbeat combines with the motor-inflected resonator vibration to approximates a standard Blues groove.

Returning to the rhythm section on Hibiki, the vibist lets Fujii be the set’s theme interpretative centre even on the three of the six tunes that the pianist didn’t compose. Emphasized with two handed pressure and energetic connections, the consequence means Oshima’s pacing from cymbals, wood block and drum set strengthens the beat, while shimmers and shivers from vibraphone and marimba provide the bouncing color that completes and softens keyboard expositions.

Interesting enough it’s Oshima’s compositions such as “Wa” which find the piano interpretation at its most technically formal. This also means that here and elsewhere, piano pedal point sets up processional movement alongside aluminum echoes from the vibes before the trio members combine for powerful polyphonic crescendos.

Moving between low and higher pitches, relaxed or rapid expositions, the interlocked set up allows each player to interpret the narratives in a fashion she feels is best. With the energy divided among motifs such as a swirling cloud of vibraphone tinctures, keyboard glissandi or inner piano string strokes and exaggerated press rolls and rattles from the drummer, individual extended techniques eventually affiliate. The blend is so profound in fact that the three can indulge in distinct tropes, as on Fujii’s “Soba” where after moving sections from side to side, the theme is finally revealed in the tune’s last minute. Helped by the cunning extensions and interpolations of her musically erudite associates, Saito’s skills are aptly featured on these discs.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Wald: 1. Ghosts of the Midnight Wood 2. Hoarfrost Tree  3. Typhoons and Windbreaks 4, Snow Monster

Personnel: Wald: Taiko Saito (vibraphone); Jan Roder (bass) and Michael Griener (percussion)

Track Listing: Hibiki: 1. Hibiki 2. Soba 3.Yozakura 4. What You See 5. Wa 6. Ichigo

Personnel: Hibiki: Satoko Fujii (piano); Taiko Saito (vibraphone and marimba) and Yuko Oshima (drums)