Makoto Terashita meets Harold Land ‘Topology’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5

More modal than spiritual this highly collectable album recorded in 1984 is now once again available, and it’s presented with impeccable attention to detail. Check out the sleeve notes as provided by Tony Higgins who as well as compiling the first volume of J Jazz alongside fellow contributor Mike Peden, became instrumental alongside Gilles Peterson in compiling the two volumes of the Universal ‘Impressed’ compilations, which highlighted some of the best British jazz from the likes of Michael Garrick, Don Rendell, Norma Winstone and many more musicians who built on the earlier waves of pioneers such as Joe Harriott and Tubby Hayes.

Reissued by BBE Music for the first time since original release 36 years ago, ‘Topology’ brings together the young pianist Makoto Terashita and veteran tenor saxophonist Harold Land for an interesting collaboration which has until now been largely resigned to the obscure and highly collectable category that few collectors have managed to track down. It was Makoto Terashita’s second of two albums which he recorded as a leader; the 1978 ‘The Great Harvest’, on the same cult Tokyo based label from five years earlier featured Bob Berg on tenor saxophone, and this album ‘Topology’, recorded in 1984 with five compositions written by Makoto Terashita and one by tenor saxophonist/composer Harold Land.

Harold Land was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He joined the UCLA Jazz Studies Program as a lecturer in 1996 to teach instrumental jazz combo. “Harold Land was one of the major contributors in the history of the jazz saxophone”, said jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, founder and director of the UCLA Jazz Studies Program.

Harold Land recorded some classic albums as a leader, as well as featuring alongside many of the great jazz musicians dating back to around 1954 when he joined the Clifford Brown and Max Roach set up, appearing on classic albums such as ‘Study In Brown’ and ‘Clifford Brown & Max Roach’ which won a Grammy. His sound graced many Bobby Hutcherson albums during the 1970s and the recent reissue of Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land ‘San Francisco’ album epitomises how they complimented each other.

Makoto Terashita was an accomplished composer who wrote five of the six compositions performed by this quintet on ‘Topology’. It’s the opening twelve-minute track, ‘Dragon Dance’ which fires on all cylinders. ‘Dragon Dance’ is also featured on Tony Higgins and Mike Peden’s excellent J-Jazz volume 2 album: their follow up collection of more rare and deep Japanese Jazz, in collaboration with the BBE record label. The composition begins with the eminent pianist crafting an exquisite solo before the quintet join to lift the tempo and momentum. There’s a percussive tone to Makoto Terashita’s playing on this track and in places, there’s a gentle nod towards the influence of the great Horace Silver. Harold Land’s beautiful crafted tone seems to bring a grounding sound which complements the piece without overpowering the composition.

Harold Land’s composition, ‘World Peace’, highlights his more restrained tone and it’s a late-night reflective piece with airs of his long-standing collaboration with Bobby Hutcherson and subtle shades of John Coltrane. There’s a real lyricism about Harold Land’s playing and looking back at albums like ‘The Peacemaker’ and many of his contributions during the late 1960s and early 1970s, he seems to be the perfect person for many leading musicians who are looking to expand the parameters without becoming detached from their roots.

‘Takeuma’ is another highlight from the album showcasing the writing qualities of pianist Makoto Terashita, a contemplative composition drawing from the stage and artistic performance of Japan’s folk history. On this piece, Harold Land adds a more gentle tone to complement the restrained feel of the music but it’s the pianist who takes centre stage adding a real depth of sound and dexterity.

Every track on this album has something special about it so it’s difficult to bring up highlights. The cover drawing design by Tsutomo Sagami is a great depiction of the lengthy interaction between Harold Land and Makoto Terashita whilst shaping compositions and arrangements. Alongside Makoto Terashita and Harold Land, the album also features Bassist Yasushi Yoneki, percussionist Takayuki Koizumi and drummer Mike Reznikoff, making a great line up.

Drummer Mike Reznikoff is the other American who features within this Makoto’s quintet on ‘Topology’ and like many other talented jazz musicians who resided in the States during the 1970s, there seemed to be more appreciation abroad and especially in Japan. Mike found his second home in Japan in 1977 after a hiatus of 8 years; he first played in an army band whilst stationed in Japan in 1969. His many successful musical relationships included stints within the Hideto Kanai Quintet, who featured on one of the Shibuya Jazz Classics compilations.

A long out of print rarity known only to a handful of Japanese jazz collectors, ‘Topology’ is now available once more, reissued for the first time as a 45rpm double 180g LP, featuring exact reproductions of the original artwork, obi strip and insert. It also comes with the original notes fully translated plus a new extended 3700 word essay by Tony Higgins. ‘Topology’ is also available as a CD and across digital formats.

Mark Jones

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