Masahiko Togashi: Session In Paris – Song Of Soil

The Japanese drummer's 1979 album with Don Cherry and Charlie Haden offers a characteristic mixture of world music and free improvisation


Some of this late-1970s session from Japanese percussionist Togashi, Don Cherry (t, f, pc) and Charlie Haden (b) has appeared on YouTube. It’s good to have the whole date available now, in excellent sound and complemented by extensive and illuminating sleeve notes.

A legend in his own land, Togashi (1940-2007) evolved from prentice days of swing and bop to become a leading innovator in Japanese free music. However, to categorise him simply as a free player would be to overlook his respect for and contribution to (revivified) jazz tradition. The surpassing Begin The Beguine he cut in 1994 with his inimitable compatriot Masabumi Kikuchi (p) and Gary Peacock (b) features material such as Summertime, Skylark and My Favourite Things (as well as beautiful versions of Togashi’s Waltz Step and Peacock’s Coral Spring).

A composer and a painter, Togashi was a master of improvised musical light and shade: of practically singing drum figures and dynamics, textural clarity and overall aural poetry. In 1969 an accident left Togashi’s legs paralysed. But he devised a drum kit that enabled him to function (brilliantly) in a wheelchair. Hear such distinctive releases as Speed And Space (1969), the solo The Face Of Percussion (1981), 1984’s Breath with, a.o, Hozan Yamamoto (shakuhachi), and Bura – Bura, a Tokyo concert date of 1986 with Cherry, Steve Lacy and Dave Holland (which has a blues rap from Cherry).

Composed by Togashi, Song Of Soil forms a suite-like whole, much in the organic Cherry manner. Cross-rhythmic free jazz fires the perky June; elsewhere, crisply articulated yet rolling drum patterns can propel Cherry’s shape-shifting horn magic. In part two of Words Of Wind, the dancing mien of Edward Blackwell inhabits the cleanly rounded pattens which complement Cherry’s folk-touched flute melodies, while on Oasis and Rain, the spare and Zen-like percussion which sets off Haden’s patient, probing pizzicato lines is testimony to the spiritual depths of Togashi’s native sensibilities.

(1) June; (2) Words Of Wind Part 1; (1) Oasis; Song Of Soil; (2) Words Of Wind Part 2; (1) Rain (38.16)
Togashi (d, pc); Don Cherry (t, c, bamboo f, pc); Charlie Haden (b). Paris, 12 & 13 July 1979.
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