Casey Golden ‘ATLAS’ (Scrampion) 4/5

Australian composer/pianist Casey Golden has currently swapped his beloved trio for a London-based quartet consisting of Casey, Alex Munk (guitar), Henrik Jensen (bass) and Will Glaser (drums). Previous recordings, with the trio, ‘Outliers‘(2015) and ‘Miniature'(2016), received very warm reviews including a 4 out of 5 from these here pages.
Having spent my formative years blessed with a good hefty weight of Heavy Rock I am quite partial to a RIFF and a pedal. I also like a bit of purposeful simplification – the designer’s ideal moment when there’s nothing left to take away, leaving you with only a pure, emotive message. Beware though – take anything else away and you fall into a tidy, well kempt but ultimately very dull ditch of austere minimalism and I don’t like that.
So, a bit of non-austere, pared back riffery suits me just fine…and, well, what do you know?…that happens to be exactly what this album does best! The quartet holds it’s nerve against the urge to overplay at any point, making the interplay even more meaningful. It’s a jazz album that somehow has a rock sensibility yet doesn’t try to deliver rock sonics. I kinda do like that.
Atlas is mapped out over 8.5 nicely ordered tracks (the 0.5 being ‘High Up (piano intro)’) benefiting you approx 50 minutes worth of absorption time.

The first half of the eponymous opener introduces you to that ‘play less, deliver more’ formula that is kept on message throughout. Golden delivers a drowsy, bitter-sweet, too-emotive-to-be-laconic, well-weighted melody that is handed over to Munk to continue in same style until they come together as a harmonious single voice while the Jensen Glaser create a very comfortable cushion. The second half is more angular with dynamic, stuttering interjections from each player – a rolling piano solo is followed by a handsomely vocalised slur and glide solo from Munk before all players tenderly depart.
Next up is my album highlight – it’s the piano/guitar riff cymbal wash that punctuates the first 2-3 minutes of ‘Singularity’ creating so much threat and drama yet being simplicity itself. Jensen’s acoustic bass then leads a poetic narrative before Golden steps up all reflective and romantic. So full but empty. Dramatic but no dramatic sounds.
‘Still Life’ ticks and throbs. Intense pedalling piano riff allows drums to tick-tock busily over the top and a sweet-as AOR piano/guitar harmony Chris Cross’s its way into a mathematical, dancing Golden solo that lets Munk chirp away just sayin’ (electric communication between them) until we’re back into the AOR chords again. ‘The Golden Munk’ is truly a special, magical two-headed musician.
Spooky start to ‘The Hobbyist’ (great title) becomes piano-stabbing syncopated and jerky before briefly leaving Golden to romantically schmooze again and then back into jerky before a piano/bass riff allows Munk and Jensen to get energetic. Gorgeous interplay.
‘High Up’ is a deftly executed piece of two parts (Part 1, contemplative. Part 2, optimistic, spiritual) where the fluid textures and layers build giving the impression of quite a few more than four players.
‘Christmas Carol’ plods through with a weary, few-too-many-whiskeys-needed festive feel (I’m sure I even heard military drums at one point) before the alcohol lubricates tender nerves, delivering acceptance.
‘The Good Fight’ sets out to bring just that – a rollickingly upbeat piano riff busies before we relax into a harmonious, easy-going free for all. Then momentarily, happily uptight again before it proper kicks off (around 5.45) with all guns blazing – a string-bend(!) from Munk leads to Glaser fire while Jensen anchors firm.
‘Everybody Else’ has ‘Atlas’ go out comparably quietly and evenly. Well spaced chords, lots of room to breathe and some really interesting melodic moments.
Atlas is lots of things – as is typical of modern jazz. Many interesting, charming textures and layers. You’ll hear lots of your own influences as much as the quartet’s. For example, Alex Munk without actually sounding like anybody in particular makes me think of Song-X Metheny, early-Satriani and Scofield as well as countless others.

Aside from the layer depth what makes this album really stand out is the beautiful, intelligent, empathic, yet chop-restrained interplay between the four musicians. It’s a case of everybody always naturally doing the right thing, with heart and flare, and nobody ever doing too much.

Ian Ward

Florian Weber ‘Lucent Waters’ CD (ECM) 3/5

If the surname is familiar, then the musical lineage is not quite what it seems. Florian Weber was born in 1977 to classical music practitioner parents (his father, Rainer, a music professor and his mother, Elke, an opera singer) and there is no obvious or immediate connection at all with Eberhard Weber. In his early twenties, Florian received a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston. While there he studied with both Paul Bley and Joanne Brackeen, even if, to these ears at least, Weber’s classical influences permeate the new album from start to finish. Once back in Germany, Weber worked under John Taylor in Cologne, and also Richie Beirach and Lee Konitz in New York. An impressive roster of musicians to say the least. Along with American bassist Jeff Denson and Israeli drummer, Ziv Ravitz, Weber co-founded Trio Minsrah (the Hebrew term for ‘prism’) and thereafter worked with Lee Konitz in 2006. Further recordings followed including on Enja, but this new recording is Weber’s second recording for ECM.

The all original compositions are performed by a new trio comprising Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Linda May Han Oh on double bass and Nasheet Watts on drums and was recorded at La Buissonne in September 2017. Several pieces make reference to water and both the simplicity of style of the melody on, ‘From Cousteau’s point of view’ and the way in which the title itself is constructed are, perhaps, collectively a subtle nod to EST and their epic, ‘Gregarin’s point of view’. Here, a pretty minimalist piano riff is repeated until Ralph Alessi takes control on this mournful piece. There is something of a contemporary classical feel to, ‘Melody of a waterfall’, where the sheer beauty of the recording sounds results in every single piano key being heard with distinctive clarity. A delicate Romantic classically inspired intro on, ‘Schimmelreiter’, leads into some carefully crafted cymbal work and throughout the harmonious relationship between classical and jazz is emphasized, consistent with the album as a whole. This writer would like a little more variation in the tempo and a less cleaner sound, but it has to be stated in defence of the musicians that the downbeat sound is ideally suited to late night listening. Of all the compositions on offer here, ‘Time horizon’, is the most uptempo, though even then it is relatively restrained in tone and features in the intro a lovely solo passage from Weber. Accompanying the music, the inner sleeve includes individual black and white photos of the musicians.

Tim Stenhouse

Andrew Cyrille ‘Lebroba’ LP/CD (ECM) 4/5

While not prolific as a leader, drummer Andrew Cyrille has nonetheless carved out a name for himself as a musician with the AACM of Chicago and recorded on an early 1970s ECM album, namely, ‘Afternoon of a Georgian Faun’, from 1971, that featured Anthony Braxton and Cyrille. The new trio recording in fact follows up on the 2016 album for ECM, ‘The declaration of musical independence’, that included a slightly varied line-up of Bill Frisell on guitar, Ben Street on acoustic bass and Richard Teitelbaum on improvised electronics. For the latest offering, Frisell is retained, but Wadada Leo Smith takes over on trumpet. As one might expect of this formation, the music is dense and ethereal, but definitely not inaccessible. A personal favourite number is the title track, which has an intro motif similar to Mingus’, ‘Pork Pie Hat’, and the gentle guitar musings of Frisell are met with some delicate drum licks from the leader, while Wadada Smith is content to remain largely in the background on muted Harmon. The balance between the trio oscillates depending on the track in question, but the laid back groove adopted on this piece suits the trio to perfection. A pity there is not more in this vein on the just over forty-two minutes of music. Miles Davis is evoked on Cyrille’s own composition, ‘Pretty Beauty’, with the deft use of cymbals and again muted Harmon that operate effectively together.

Early on in Andrew Cyrille’s career, he counted among his childhood influences two local musicians in Les Abrams and especially, Max Roach. As he matured, that range extended to drummers of the calibre of Art Blakey and Philly Joe Jones. However, what further influenced the musical outlook of Cyrille was listening to piano less quartets, most notably the 1950s pairing of Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan. That latter influence can be heard on the number, ‘Worried Woman’, a Frisell-penned number, which has something of rambling opening with a repetitive guitar riff, before a crescendo is heard on the drum rolls, while Wadada Smith positively soars on trumpet. Pride of place on the album, however, goes to the epic, seventeen and a half minutes tribute to the late Alice Coltrane’, ‘Turiya: Alice Coltrane meditations and dreams: love’. This has a distinctive downtempo groove taken at 4/4 and then morphing into a more vibrant and West African influenced 6/8 tempo, with guitar and trumpet in tandem. The homage was inspired by a single meeting between Cyrille and Coltrane when the latter attended the Cal Arts where she was due to receive an honorary doctorate. Wadada had been teaching at the institution at the time and the duo struck up an immediate connection.

ECM, as it reaches a ripe old age, has once again broken its traditional minimalist sleeve detail policy (and rightly so) to include eight pages of sleeve notes on Andrew Cyrille. Special mention must be made of the stunning cover photo that owes part of its influence to the paintings of Jackson Pollock. The vibrant red, gray and black kaleidoscope of colours was created by Juan Hitters.

Tim Stenhouse

Erik Andresen’s Quartet ‘GIP’ LP/CD (Jazzaggression) 4/5

The enlightened Jazzaggression Records from Finland have unearthed an extremely rare and collectable Norwegian album from Erik Andresen, a highly regarded and versatile musician who played both saxophone and clarinet to a high standard within numerous different musical contexts, from free jazz, big band to classical. This release recorded in 1970 and released a year later was Andresen’s only jazz quartet formation and issued on a non-jazz record label in small quantities but has now become somewhat of a ‘Holy Grail’ amongst the jazz vinyl collecting fraternity. The title ‘GIP’ is basically an acronym for Gerd Inger Polden, Andresen’s wife at the time, with the line-up consisting of Tore Nordlie on bass, Svein Christiansen on drums, Roy Hellvin on acoustic and electric piano and bandleader Erik Andresen playing alto saxophone.

The album begins with ‘Old Gospel’, a sprightly Ornette Coleman bebop composition rather than one of his free form moments. Better known as a Jackie McLean number (Coleman performed on McClean’s 1967 Blue Note version), the quartet maintains the bop tradition here with its purposeful but effective solos. ‘Ode A Jean-Louis’ is a dynamic piece written by Phil Woods, the influential US saxophonist who was living in Europe during the late 1960s and early ‘70s (more later), and during its 8 minute track length, meanders from its delicate intro to almost funky post-bop aesthetic.

Title track ‘GIP’ is a reflective and subtle piece centered around piano, drums and upright bass at its core, with Andresen’s very conversational saxophone augmenting the rhythm section perfectly. ‘Foot Prints’, the Wayne Shorter masterpiece of which there are over 100 cover versions, incorporates effective use of Fender Rhodes, which is the only time Roy Hellvin moves from acoustic to electric piano on the album. Probably the most fusion-esque track of the release; ‘Foot Prints’ allows Hellvin to adapt his playing style and phrasing a little, with definite early 1970s Herbie and Joe Sample influences apparent.

‘Cordon Bleu’ utilises a slight bossa nova rhythm for this infectious self-penned tune and ‘Sweet Georgia Bright’, a Charles Lloyd standard, is a touch more subdued than some of the more fiery versions, nonetheless, it functions as an excellent vehicle for pianist Hellvin and drummer Christiansen to showcase their fluid improvisational skills as well as Andresen’s disciplined alto work.

The album closes with ‘Chan and Phil’, which is presumably an ode to Phil Woods and his then wife Chan – although there’s no information to confirm this. Chan was also Charlie Parker’s partner at the time of his death in 1955 and mother to his two children, and thus, this is a thoughtful composition written for the couple who were both living in Paris at this time, with Woods becoming a massive influence on European jazz. This track is taken from a different session to the rest of the album and was recorded in 1969 for Norwegian radio station NRK and features a slightly different line-up that includes Egil Kapstad on piano.

Unusually for a modern reissue, the vinyl also includes a CD pressing of the album (or the other-way-around depending on your preference). As someone who only buys vinyl but also appreciates the convenience of digital music files, this is obviously welcomed. And additionally, there is also a separate 10” vinyl-only release by the label of two extra tracks taken from the same session as ‘Chan and Phil’, called ‘Cointreau’ and ‘Inner Urge’, which was originally created by Joe Henderson and is of the same high quality as the album.

The early 1970s were a fruitful time for European jazz, with Erik Andresen Quartet’s ‘GIP’ another highly recommended and fascinating inclusion to any jazz record collection, especially considering the excellent remastering work undertaken for this reissue.

Damian Wilkes

Gaëtan Roussel ‘Trafic’ LP/CD (Barclay France/Blue Wrasse) 3/5

If the name is unfamiliar to British and American ears, then in France, Gaëtan Roussel is something of a household name as the leader of Louise Attaque and Tarmac, both of which he co-founded. They were in fact key new wave bands of the 1990s, but Rousel departed to start his own solo career by the very end of the noughties. He recorded a first album in 2010, ‘Ginger’, which was a qualified success at the time, but gained useful experience collaborating with veteran French rocker, the late Alain Bashung, and duetting among others with the sadly departed Rachid Taha and Vanessa Paradis. Roussel possesses a naturally gravelly voice which will not be to the liking of all, and a second, higher pitched delivery, both of which this writer struggled to appreciate. The new album, produced by Tom Goldsworthy of the DFA label, has the emphasis firmly placed on a contemporary dance floor vibe and that means a healthy dose of electronica and even dub influences side by side with uptempo rock and pop accompaniment. That alternative dance influence has been there from the very beginnings of his solo career since the debut album featured the presence of Renee Scroggins, who was an integral part of the New York cult group, ESG. The device of acoustic guitar and hand claps is repeatedly deployed, and exemplified here on, ‘J’entends des voix’, while a joint duo with Vanessa Paradis on, ‘Tu me manques’, should ensure a pop chart entry in France at least. For some much needed variety, the uptempo groove that permeates the album is temporarily abandoned on the pared down piano and vocal pairing of, ‘Je veux bien, je ne sais pas’.

Tim Stenhouse

Camilla George ‘The People Could Fly’ LP/CD (Ubuntu Music) 3/5

One of the so-called Young Turks of the current British jazz scene, this is the second album recorded by the alto saxophonist, who has already reached the eyes and ears of the American jazz community, being reviewed no less by Down Beat in a recent edition. The music is in fact inspired by a 1985 book of African-American folkloric tales, hence the album title, and this recalls George’s own experiences growing up as a child in Nigeria when a combination of her mother and grandmother combined to recounted these same stories to her. Indeed, that Afro-jazz undercurrent is part of a more general trend among the younger generation of black British musicians who are eager to explore their own ancestral roots which vary from the African continent, in the case of Camilla George, to the Caribbean and beyond, as with the Sons of Kemet. In the case of Camilla George, however, it is the gap between the lofty rhetoric and the actual musical performances where the problem resides. In short, the music comes across as too light and breezy to convey the seriousness of the subject matter where some of the tales deal with the daily lives of African-American slavery. That is not to say that George has taken the subject matter lightly. Any such observation would be false and inaccurate. Rather the right balance between the message and the delivery has not been struck and, as a result, the listener receives a confused whole with which to navigate.

That said, if one does for a moment in time divorce the subject matter and the music itself, then there are aspects to admire in the album, especially the vocal-like quality to the leader’s own phrasing which recalls three of her seminal alto saxophone influences: Cannonball Adderley; Jackie McLean and Sonny Stitt. On this second outing, George is ably assisted by Sarah Tandy who operates on both acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes, and sounds more of an individual on the latter than the former, while guitarist Shirley Tetteh has a pronounced percussive style of playing on guitar. Vocalist Cherise Adam-Burnett guests on ‘Little Eight John’, and her phrasing hints at an operatic background, while Omar provides lead vocals on a cover of a Curtis Mayfield song, ‘Here But I’m Gone’, reflective of the social condition of African-Americans. Perhaps this ambitious project was simply a tad too soon in her already blossoming and promising career, and in defence of Camilla George, she has already gained a good deal of experience, working as part of the Nu Civilisation Orchestra, Jazz Jamaica and Courtney Pine’s Venus Warriors project. In fact, it was only in 2014 that George founded her own quartet. If the music does not quite match the lofty ambitions on this occasion, that is not intended as a put down for future projects that cover similar terrain. Camilla George is very much on a learning experience journey and this album hints at much more to come for the not too distant future. British jazz is in a healthy state right now.

Tim Stenhouse

Eric Dolphy ‘Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions’ 3LP/3CD (Resonance) 5/5

One of the year’s most awaited re-issues, containing no less than eighty five minutes of previously unheard additional material, this beautifully assembled and lavishly illustrated package, is a serious contender for pole position in the 2018 re-issue albums roster alongside, predictably, the John Coltrane set. For those not already acquainted with the superlative music, it captures Eric Dolphy at his absolute peak in the same year, 1963, that he recorded the Blue Note classic ‘Out To Lunch’, with some of the musicians who featured on that seminal album as well as a host of others. Just one year later, he would tragically die, aged just thirty-six, while on a European tour.

While the two original LPs, ‘Conversations’ and ‘Iron Man’, have been issued previously, they have never been so lovingly wrapped up and embellished by this amount of historical context and that is worth a separate paragraph of explanation. It should be stated from the outset that Eric Dolphy, as a leader, recorded but five albums under his own name, but was a truly prolific sideman, working with John Coltrane, Chico Hamilton, Oliver Nelson and a host of others. Little wonder, then, that when he did come to record, he could count on the support of musical titans of the era such as vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, bassists Richard Davis and Charnett Moffett, and an array of horn players including trumpeter Woody Shaw and saxophonists Clifford Jordan, Prince Lasha (on flute here) and Sonny Simmons.

The extended box set inner sleeve booklet is surely going to win an award for its comprehensive coverage, under the overall control of archivist Zev Feldman, who previously worked on a Charles Lloyd project for Resonance, and to give you just a flavour of what awaits the lucky recipient of this collection, the pictorial accompaniment is nothing less than stunning. Comprising LP size black and white photographs that capture the very essence of Eric Dolphy, we are consequently able to see beyond the music itself and into the inner sanctuary of the man, at once meditative and ebullient in character. Those very portraits in fact emanate from the key photographers of the era, and. indeed, of jazz history in general one might add. They include Jean-Pierre Leloir, Don Schlitten, Lee Tanner, Val Wilmer and Francis Wolff. To begin with, a colour reproduction of a relatively little known, if highly influential, American magazine, Jazz Review from 1960, with, on the front cover, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and vocalese exponents, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. How one envies being back in that moment of time and discovering such treasures first time over. Of the plethora of personal testimonies, that of fellow reedist/flautist and Professor of Music at the University of California in Los Angeles, Herb Alpert Music School, stands out above the others, namely that of James Newton. As Newton rightly points out, Eric Dolphy excelled in exploring the human condition and an integral part of his philosophical outlook was to embrace plurality. In practice, this meant Dolphy could find a home alongside musicians of the post-bop tradition as on his recordings for Prestige with Booker Little and Mal Waldron, as part of a larger ensemble as on the Impulse recordings of John Coltrane, but equally with the Latin Jazz Quintet. This is why Newton refers to Eric Dolphy as a, ‘Musical architect’. The music within is refreshing and challenging in equal measure and consequently makes for an enriching experience.

Another highlight, however, is the testimony of Japanese jazz aficionado, Masekazu Sato, who indicates just how popular Dolphy was in the land of the rising sun. It is an indication of the high esteem that Eric Dolphy is still held in that some of the major names of the jazz saxophone should similarly pay homage to his work and these include Steve Coleman, David Murray, a contemporary in Sonny Rollins, and Henry Threadgill. One of the most touching aspects of this package are the smaller personalised touches that make all the difference. For example, showcased in the inner booklet are an assortment of personally owned Downbeat magazines that now lie in the possession of close family friend, Juanita Smith, between 1960 and 1964. That tiny attention to detail is a hallmark of this magnificent re-issue throughout.

With such a splendid display of musical memorabilia to accompany, the music itself had better be outstanding to live up to the billing and it truly is. Dolphy can be heard in a variety of contexts and excels in all. Thus, we hear him on three duet pieces with bassist Davis on, ‘Ode to Charlie Parker’, but also Ellington’s, ‘Come Sunday’, while the sheer intensity of the man’s voice on alto saxophone can be enjoyed on a solo rendition of, ‘Love me’. However, pride of place goes to those sumptuous quintet recordings where Dolphy himself alternates between bass clarinet, flute and of course alto saxophone, with a crack quintet team including Bobby Hutcherson, Woody Shaw, Clifford Jordan, Prince Lasha and Sonny Simmons sharing duties. The natural empathy that flows between him and these musicians is all too evident of numbers of the calibre of ‘Burning Spear’ and ‘Music Matador’.

Of particular note to CD enthusiasts, a separate 3CD edition of exactly the same material and length will become available as of 25 January 2019.

Tim Stenhouse

Various ‘J Jazz – Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984’ 3LP/CD (BBE Music) 5/5

In the aftermath of WWII, Japan began the process of reconstruction under the jurisdiction until 19512 of the American military authorities who enacted widespread economic and social reforms as well as those in the military and political domains. One by-product of this situation was that a younger generation of Japanese came face to face with US, and by extension western culture, after the policy of isolationism imposed by the former Japanese military authorities and which brainwashed the average Japanese citizen into thinking that westerners were savages hell-bent on the destruction of Japan. After the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was with much trepidation that the ordinary Japanese person envisioned the US occupation of their nation and the imposition and potentially alien cultural norms and values. To begin with at micro level, this meant large-scale dance halls where big band swing jazz was being reproduced by local orchestras. However, as Japan rapidly rebuilt the country under a capitalist consumer society, modern American jazz artists started to tour and influence a subsequent generation of Japanese youths who had become used to being exposed to western music, and as Japanese economic growth was sustained and technology improved, were thereafter able to listen to the jazz greats on record as well as in the flesh at regular concert venues, large and small, that grew in number during the 1960s. This compilation is a reflection of that younger generation who, as amateur enthusiasts, wanted to reproduce those sounds in their own way.

The title is slightly misleading in that the earliest music dates in fact from 1973 and the music in general focuses mainly upon the mid-to-late 1970s period, but it is nonetheless true to say that stylistically much of the music heard here could typically, from an American perspective, come from the mid-late 1960s era. While it is far from a definitive compilation of Japanese jazz as a whole (that would require a several series volume similar to that attempted by the Swedish cultural institute with the considerable organisational and financial support of the Swedish jazz label, Caprice records, and which has mushroomed into a multi-volume exploration of jazz in that country), it does shed light on how US jazz in the post-‘Kind of Blue’ era impacted upon jazz enthusiasts in Japan, with highly informative notes that open up new perspectives to western jazz devotees on how jazz in Japan is appreciated and for that alone, the compilation is an extremely worthy eye opener, and indeed a fine companion to the previous one offered by Jazzman records earlier in the year. It advisedly avoids much of the slick jazz-fusion material that surfaced during the late 1970s and 1980s, but the one thing we do not hear are jazz vocals (or for that matter Japanese women instrumentalists such as Toshiko Akiyoshi, or, more recently, Hiromi who, externally, have come in the course of time to dominate the perception of Japanese jazz externally) and that is one aspect that does need to be covered at some point. Of course, linguistic factors come into play here and that is one major reason why no Japanese vocalist(s) has/have yet to make any real international impact whereas instrumentalists do not face such obstacles. Secondly, some of the other finest pianists such as Masabumi Kikuchi do not feature and some of their earlier work was released only in Japan. In the case of Kikuchi, his later work has been recorded sporadically on ECM and is well worth investigating. Thirdly, some of the other major brass instrument and percussion figures from the 1970s are missing and these include trumpeter Terumasa Hino and drummer Masahiko Togashi, although to be fair the sleeve notes clearly make reference to their contribution and some selection of whom to include and exclude is part and parcel of any such compilation. Finally, the numerous recordings of US musicians in Japan are noteworthy and, perhaps, an entirely separate anthology of their work is required also and this includes major names that range from Art Blakey to Herbie Hancock and Elvin Jones, to Oliver Nelson and Mal Waldron.

The question of authenticity needs to be posed at an early juncture because jazz at its very essence is about individual expression and one legitimate criticism that has been voiced about jazz in general that emanates from outside the United States is whether it is merely derivative of the original source, or has managed to evolve into something more localised and personal. Outside of jazz, one can cite the example of the Finnish tango, which although it clearly has its roots in Argentine tango, has developed its own roots and adapted to an entirely separate culture and climate. In the case of jazz, the fusion of local folk music with jazz has produced some noteworthy new hybrid styles from Afro-Cuban jazz to Indo-Jazz fusion. With very few exceptions, jazz in Japan has tended to follow a more conservative route, and thus reproduce similar styles to those in the evolution of modern jazz in the United States. This may explain in part, at least, why some Japanese musicians have made the United States their part or permanent home in order to gain their own voice.

As to the music within, an immediate favourite of this writer is actually from 1984, although, in style alone, it sounds more akin to 1964. This is the refined modal piece, ‘A Blind Man’, by the Shintaro quintet, composed by leader and bassist, Shintaro Nakamura, but interestingly and significantly, featuring US pianist Jeff Jenkins who has worked under Kenny Barron. What makes this number work is equally the graceful trumpet solo of Shunzo Ohno, and it is no accident that the leader has worked with other American jazz musicians, notably Woody Shaw. Another combination of Japanese and US jazz musicians in tandem operates on the impressionistic sounding ‘Little Island’, and it is important to note that like jazz musicians everywhere else, Japanese keyboardists have come under the influence of French composers such as Debussy and Ravel. On this 1976 offering on the Why Not label, leader and pianist Fumio Karashima, has an individual piano voice and this trio includes drummer Jimmy Hopps, who performed on several albums of Roland Kirk and on the Strata East label. Karashima is a musician of whom much more needs to be heard and it is sad to learn that, just as a wider international audience finally has the opportunity to hear his music and find out a little more about him, he should then pass away in early 2017. Brazilian music seems to be extremely popular in Japan and this is illustrated by the understated electric piano bossa trio + 1 piece from 1978, ‘Aya’s Samba’, composed by leader and bassist, Eiji Nakayama. The subtle melody is stated on Fender Rhodes by Atsushi Sakuraba before the tenor saxophone of Kenji Takahashi enters late in proceedings. This was recorded on the legendary Johnny’s Disk label and the label owner ran a Jazz Kissa or café in the town of Rikuzentakata, which in 2011 became famous for being one of the places worst affected by the terrible tsunami. This entirely washed away the building where the Jazz Kissa was situated and with it a 10,000 LP collection. One instrument that is barely heard on this compilation is the sound of the guitar, but that is rectified to some extent by the inclusion of ‘Long Neal’ by leader and guitarist, Kiyoshi Sugimoto from 1973. The piece grows in intensity and the electric piano licks from Masayoshi Yoneda are especially pleasing on the ear. There is great empathy between the leader and tenor saxophonist Takao Uematsu.

Last, but by no means least, the exemplary and stylishly adorned sleeve notes by Tony Higgins and Mike Peden are worthy of a separate award in that translating from original Japanese into English is necessarily a lengthy and potentially hazardous task, but every individual track nonetheless receives full line-up details along with biographical information on how the recordings came about and the musicians concerned, historical notes on the independent labels, and wherever possible by graphical illustrations of the front cover. Given the lack of attention devoted to all but the most obvious of Japanese jazz musicians in English language publications, the pioneering work of Tony Higgins and Mike Peden deserves a great deal of credit for taking the modern history of jazz in Japan that little bit further than previously and we should all be grateful for that.

Tim Stenhouse