Hideto Sasaki / Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet +1 ‘Stop Over’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5

The Hideto Sasaki – Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet + 1 ‘Stop Over’ album is one of those extremely rare Japanese jazz recordings from the mid-1970s that has remained under the radar for many years. Only 100 copies were pressed for the Japanese private press label Smile on release in 1976 and it’s been a highly sought after album ever since. The title track featured on the 2019 J Jazz compilation ‘Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1983 (Volume 2)’; a precursor for the albums reissue via the BBE J Jazz Masterclass Series. The music is personally curated by Tony Higgins and Mike Peden and is dedicated to presenting the very finest in Japanese modern jazz. The whole series features rare material presented in the highest quality reproductions of the original releases, fully licensed and authorised.

‘Stop Over’ is the sixth release from the BBE J Jazz Masterclass Series following last year’s reissue of the Miyasaka + 5 album ‘Animals Garden’, recorded in 1979, and it’s another essential listen throughout, with first-class musicians at the top of their game. The album includes a stellar line up with pianist Toshiyuki Sekine and writer/trumpeter Sasaki Hideto joined by drummer Takashi Kurosaki, bassist Kei Narita and Alto saxophonist Noriyasu Watanabe.

The full sounding acoustic recording carries a reflective stance, highlighting a particular bop and modal feel that was prevalent during the late 1950s and mid-1960s, whilst adding an updated renewed spirit to the chosen compositions without losing the essence of the period. Of the five chosen pieces, compositions by Cedar Walton, Bobby Hutcherson, Tadd Dameron, Danny Zeitlin feature alongside the title track ‘Stop Over’, written by Sasaki Hideto.

‘Carole’s Garden’ is treated to an energetic sprint with the driving Messengers style high hat work by drummer Takashi Kurosaki adding a springboard for Sasaki Hideto and Noriyasu Watanabe’s fast tempo improvising. The sparse and rapid flurries from pianist Toshiyuki Sekine create a full-bodied piece that stretches over 8 minutes. It’s a good choice for the album and the group add a dynamic spark to the 1965 original from Danny Zeitlin.

Toshiyuki Sekine’s melodic creativity really takes centre stage on ‘Little B’s Poem’ with the alto saxophone of Noriyasu Watanabe the perfect accompaniment for this superbly nuanced version of Bobby Hutcherson’s original modal piece. The track enjoyed wide recognition through Dee Dee Bridgewater’s vocal version off her ‘Afro Blue’ album from 1974.

Tadd Dameron’s 1956 ballad ‘Soultrane’ is a warm and sublime update of the original with Hedito Sasaki setting the tone before pianist Takashi Kurosaki adds his melodic touches and exchanges with the trumpeter. It’s a well-chosen piece that sits well between the more mid and uptempo tracks.

Pianist Toshiyuki Sekine opens up the uptempo memorable title track in a similar vein to Horace Silver on a Messengers album with some superb performances on this Sasaki Hideto written piece. It’s one of the highlights from this solid album and a fitting choice for its place on the J Jazz compilation. There’s some relentless dynamic drumming on the track by Takashi Kurosaki who builds an intensity which brings the piece alive with some excellent moments by the composer.

Bassist Kei Narita and Sasaka Hideto both swing on ‘Turquoise Twice’ which was originally recorded by Cedar Walton on ‘Cedar’ for the Prestige record label. On the groups version there are shades of Kenny Dorham’s style evoked by Sasaki Hideto and again its a fitting tribute to the 1967 composition.

Licensed and released with the approval of Toshiyuki Sekine himself, ‘Stop Over’ will be available for download and streaming, as a CD and double vinyl LP, the first vinyl reissue of this amazing album since originally slipping out to family and friends in 1976. With a deluxe packaging and translated sleeve notes, there will also be new notes and an interview with Toshiyuki Sekine.
Another quality reissue with all the deserved attention surrounding its reissue.

Mark Jones

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