Masahiko Togashi, Masabumi Kikuchi – Concerto (1991/2016)

Masahiko Togashi, Masabumi Kikuchi - Concerto (1991/2016)
Artist: Masahiko Togashi, Masabumi Kikuchi
Album: Concerto
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz, Free Jazz
Label: Studio Songs Japan/Nippon Crown
Year Of Release: 1991/2016
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)

Tracklist:
CD 1:
01. Two In Silence (12:14)
02. Walking Step (1:59)
03. Pause (11:57)
04. Memories (13:14)
05. Kid’s Nap (3:09)
06. All The Things You Are (5:30)
07. Misterioso (7:08)

CD 2:
01. Riding Love’s Echoes (13:03)
02. Relighting (3:00)
03. Mezame (4:02)
04. Little Eyes (10:35)
05. Passing Breeze (9:35)
06. Utviklingssang (4:36)
07. Unbalance (16:14)

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Two Japanese jazz greats pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and percussionist Masahiko Togashi recorded “Concerto” in 1991 – quite prolific period for both (especially for Kikuchi who founded one of his most successful project Tethered Moon with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian right at that time). Released soon after, this duo album hasn’t been noticed and became an obscurity. Many Kikuchi fans even don’t know such release exists.

In 2016 it has been re-issued in Japan so it is much more accessible now. Being mostly known as an object of discussions between collectors (as rule no-one of them ever heard its content) – is this album really all that good?

Almost two-hour long collection of improvisations is obviously dominated by Kikuchi’s piano work. It is probably most lyrical work of everything what Kikuchi has been ever recorded. Bigger part of this double-CD set is filled with down tempo piano pseudo-classical balladry, similar to Russian romantic classics coming from 19 century. Togashi’s percussion doesn’t produce the beat or rhythm of any kind and is used mostly for ascetic licks over sentimental piano recital.

Inexperienced listener can be fooled by tuneful accessibility of Kikuchi’s piano and easily imagine he’s listening to slightly modernized chamber romanticism piano pieces. Only after some time one can cath up that music generally starts nowhere and goes to eternity. Familiar with Kikuchi’s later recordings knows that he introduced very own avant-garde improvisational techniques, playing accessible liquid tunes’ snippets in never-ending cyclic way. In fact, such kind of music can be started at any place of CD and can be finished same way – the resulted piece will be almost as representative as any other taken from the double set.

On some pieces (like “Passing Breeze”) Togashi’s percussion takes more initiative and adds more blood to previously almost meditative piano-dominated music. “Unbalance” (longest album’s composition lasting 16+ minute) particularly destroys chamber lullabies for characteristic Togashi’s percussive air temples and quite refined piano-percussion duels.

Still in all whole album obviously missing dynamics and too often occurs dangerously close to monotonous sound-wallpaper. Few atonal and more percussive pieces demonstrate better balance between tuneful melancholic atmosphere and dramatic tension, but there are not enough of them to save the album from “lullaby” effect.

So – it’s great that one more “secret album” of Japanese avant-garde jazz became accessible for public, but it could be mostly recommended for listeners,familiar with Togashi and Kikuchi (avant-garde period) music. Newbies can be seriously disappointed.

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