Kohsuke Mine ‘First’ 2LP@45rpm/CD (BBE Music) 4/5

Kohsuke Mine’s landmark debut album ‘First’, recorded in 1970, is the focus on this 8th release from the J-Jazz series on the BBE Music label, issued on CD, digital and vinyl with the usual attention to detail that has arrived with all the previous releases. The vinyl edition is presented as a double album, cut at 45rpm by the Grammy-nominated Carvery, with full original reproduction artwork, including obi strip. Both CD and vinyl come with 4500-word sleeve notes and interview with Kohsuke Mine by Tony Higgins, plus artist portraits by Shigeru Uchiyama.

Kohsuke Mine had earned accolades within Masabumi Kikuchi’s sextet on the 1970 ‘Re-Confirmation’ album, which served as the perfect footing for his own debut as a leader just a few months later. Both musicians shared a close working relationship during the early 1970s working together with well-known artists including Gil Evans, Joe Henderson, Sadao Watanabe and Terumasa Hino.

Kohsuke Mine was just 26 years old when he recorded ‘First’ and it’s a Japanese/American collaborative recording featuring Masabumi Kikuchi alongside bassist Larry Ridley and drummer Lenny McBrowne; two legendary figures of American jazz. The quartet really gels on this recording and all the arrangements are woven together with fluidity and understanding between the musicians on board.

Kohsuke Mine’s composition ‘Morning Tide’ is a superb post-bop piece with touches of the fusion sparks that were starting to become more pronounced around the period. Pianist Masabumi Kikuchi adds a searching probing element to the track with reflections of inspirations such as Chick Corea appearing within his progressive emerging voice. ‘Morning Tide’ was one of the highlights from the latest 3rd volume of Tony Higgins and Mike Peden’s J-Jazz compilation.

Thelonius Monk’s composition, ‘Straight No Chaser’, seems at home on this album and the lyrical flowing alto of Kohsuke Mine adds a real buoyancy to the piece, accentuated by the quartet’s inventive improvisation. Masabumi Kikuchi’s warm and fluid runs alongside bassist Larry Ridley’s exchanges are a highlight from the piece.

The quartet is as follows: Alto Saxophone – Kohsuke Mine, Bass – Larry Ridley, Drums – Lenny McBrowne, Electric Piano – Masabumi Kikuchi. Each musician features at least one composition alongside the Thelonius Monk standard.

Another deep jazz album from Japan that has been finally noticed again and made available. Over 50 years ago the second wave of Japanese jazz musicians were starting to record some incredible music on labels such as Three Blind Mice and other lesser-known labels, most likely played over the years by the many jazz record bars around Japan. This rare album by Kohsuke Mine has never been reissued before which is hard to believe; another welcome find by the J-Jazz curators.

Mark Jones

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