Various ‘J Jazz Volume 2 – Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969 – 1983’ 3LP/2CD (BBE Music) 5/5

It’s really worth checking two Tony Higgins interviews on Worldwide FM for an excellent introduction to the Japanese jazz scene during the period that he and fellow compiler Mike Peden have focused on for this latest J-Jazz compilation. Tony Higgins, Paul Bradshaw and Gilles Peterson illuminate the music and share their personal experiences of the Japanese jazz scene and culture surrounding, not just Tokyo but throughout Japan.

As well as Mike Peden’s Orgy in Rhythm blog, James Catchpole has documented an essential introduction to the world of Japanese jazz, clubs, bars, music and cafes of which there are many playing jazz and even updating the playing list in real-time. Last track Booker Ervin ‘Exultation’ Prestige Records. Check out his excellent website and start checking airfares! It’s a really fascinating glimpse into the culture and the Japanese art of preserving an important part of jazz history with dedication and a real love for the music. The front cover features some of the faces and places that have been integral to the music, which is a nice touch from BBE and the compilers.

From a Japanese perspective, the collection of music on J-Jazz volume 2 is to jazz as Dave Godin’s selection was to the world of soul with his excellent ‘Deep Soul Treasures’ series on Kent Music. It’s an honest personal journey, deep into the world of jazz which reaches beyond the music into the essence and context of a particularly significant period in Japan’s musical history between the years of 1969 and 1983 where, during the stated period, there was a cultural shift taking place, away from the American mould of influence towards an identity emerging from a new generation of Japanese musicians.

It’s easy to underestimate the importance that Japan has played in the cultural preservation of jazz, and many renowned yet under the radar overseas jazz artists have been effortlessly kept in focus by the sheer enthusiasm and dedication towards the music and artists over many years.

The J-Jazz Masterclass Series is personally curated by Tony Higgins and Mike Peden and is dedicated to presenting the very finest in Japanese jazz. The series features rare and unreleased material presented in the highest quality reproductions of the original releases, fully licensed and authorised. There’s a triple vinyl presentation and a double CD variation with a bonus track on the CD from the Koichi Matsukaze Trio.

Mike Peden started one of the leading jazz-based online music blogs, Orgy in Rhythm. It is through the connections Mike made via his leading jazz-based online music blog that he began to travel to Japan to explore the scene there. The J-Jazz compilation for BBE came about as a direct result of these Japanese record buying trips. Mike’s passion for, and knowledge of, Japanese jazz is evident in these deep and rare selections.

Taken from Makoto Terashita and Harold Land’s 1984 album Topology, which is also reissued this September 2019 through BBE Music, ‘Dragon Dance’ opens up J-Jazz volume 2 featuring the young pianist and elder statesman bringing together a deep spiritual sound and a meeting of minds from the past and future generations.

Miyasaka + 5 ‘Animals Garden’ is the title track taken from the 1979 album led by master drummer Takashi Miyasaka featuring the saxophonist Koichi Matsukaze and its rerelease is also available through BBE Records this autumn so look out for the full album. Raphael Sebbag – Shibuya Jazz Classics featured a track from another album by the leader called ‘Soul Tomato’ from his later 1982 album.

‘Teru Teru Bozo’ by Teru Sakomoto trio adds a Headhunters style touch track to the laid back beat with effects and percussion and traditional instruments added towards the funky feel which is quite a unique track in respect of the overlaying of effects and almost broken beat feel in places.

Electro Keyboard Orchestra brings the space-age effects of the keyboard to the foray with an amazing heavy synthesizer fusion interpretation of Norman Connors’ ‘classic ‘Mother Of The Future’.

Koichi Matsukaze ‘The Original Bill’ is another sharp twisting groove with some eminently sophisticated brazen saxophone playing not too dissimilar to what you might expect from say a Black Jazz release with Rudoph Johnson. It’s the rhythm section which really ignites this track with great use of the cymbals and padding elongated into a solo of distinction.

George Kawaguchi’s ‘Vietnam’ is a deep reflective modal piece from 1969 taken from the drummer’s rare album ‘George and Sleepy’ with a quartet setting. This exceptional jazz composition was recorded at a time of great unrest and upheaval in Japan against the government policies of both the USA and Japan. Both Kawaguchi and bassist Isoo Suzuki played in Art Blakey’s band during the 1980s.

Following in the approach of volume 1 of J-Jazz, volume 2 is selected with a great understanding of not only the obscure deeper side of Japanese jazz but also the importance of context, sound quality and question to detail. It’s a stylish package with great content, representing an important time, documented by two of the most knowledgeable collectors of Japanese Jazz who have both visited the country many times and who both share an affinity and connection with the music and the people.

A solid deep jazz collection of real quality.

Mark Jones