Various: J Jazz – Deep Modern Jazz From Japan, Volume 4

Compilation of mostly high-energy, virtuosic 1970s post-bop to fusion jazz from Japan with appearances by Herbie Hancock and Kazumi Watanabe


The distributors were kind enough to complement this already generous two-CD sampling of (chiefly) post-bop-to-fusion (and beyond) Japanese jazz with the LP Reminiscent Suite, a characterful, modally fired quintet date from 1972 led by pianist Mal Waldron and Terumasa Hino, one of Japan’s most noted trumpeters. The LP came with a lengthy and informative sleevenote by Tony Higgins, which includes some fascinating information about Gary Peacock (who is not present on the suite) and his early days living and playing in Japan.

Tony Higgins is also present on Deep Modern Jazz, where he shares an even longer sleevenote with Mike Peden. Unfortunately, while the back sleeve of Reminiscent Suite provides precise and easily accessible details of the personnel, recording date and location, Deep Modern Jazz mixes personnel and (not so precise) recording details into a lengthy text of shifting historical focus and biographical detail. Informative as it is, the text’s small typeface necessitated reading with a torch and made the retrieval of discographical details something of a nightmare. I apologise for whatever mistakes or omissions there may be, but would assure readers I gave it my best shot: it took some four to five hours to assemble what is there.

The majority of the music is both striking and most enjoyable in its combination of high energy and excellent post-bop musicianship, even if most of the action comes with an invisible “based upon an American precedent” stamped on it.

Hear the compelling post-Tyner, Blue Note-patented modal burn-ups that are Exchange and A Head Wind or the Shaft-like touches of razor-sharp funk on Scramble. Crisp, biting and variegated swing and groove are often at a premium (sample the early passages of By The Red Stream) mixed with various affecting rubato intros (hear trombonist Shigaharu Mukai’s superb Toppu) and diverse takes on Latin and jazz-rock.

Check Herbie Hancock’s appearance on Samba Negrito and the almost Mahavishnu-esque drive of Kaleidoscope, with its riveting solo by Kazumi Watanabe (elg). There is also what has come to be known as Acid Jazz: hear the latter stages of Red Stream, one of the best tracks here and characterised in the sleevenote as “a loping tripped-out blues excursion into the outer reaches of J Jazz”.

One or two pieces hint at another side of the Japanese temperament – the side that all those years ago, led Tony Scott (cl) to record Music For Zen Meditation with Hozan Yamamoto (shakuhachi) and Shinichi Yuize (koto). Relish the opening tranquility of Hiromasa Suzuki’s arrangement of Debussy’s Prélude À L’après-Midi D’un Faune and enjoy the mix of impressionist touches with another kind of “tripped out” blues in the meditative depths of Masahiko Sato’s in part multi-tracked yet spare solo piece, A Muddy Muffin.

Some names, like guitarist Ryo Kawasaki, will be well known, some less so to listeners outside Japan. Overall, despite my beef about the format of the sleeve note, Deep Modern Jazz from Japan can be recommended as a richly conceived introduction to some of the best of what one might call modern-to-contemporary, “mainstream-to-out” jazz in the land of Zen – and hyper-fast trains.

CD1: (1) Exchange; (2) The Ground For Peace; (3) Chakkiri-Bushi; (4) Trial Road; (5) A Muddy Muffin; (6) Samba Negrito; (7) Scramble; (8) A Head Wind (87.55)
CD2: (9) Prelude To The Afternoon of A Faun; (10) Jones Street; (11) By The Red Stream; (12) Kaleidoscope (edit); (13) Ogi Denju-shiki; (14) Toppu; (15) Mickey’s Samba; (16) Macumba (63.04)

(1) Takeo Moriyama (d); Yoshio Kunijasu (ts); Fumio Itabashi (p); Hideaki Mochizuki (b).
(2) Jiro Inagaki (ts) and His Soul Media feat. Tetsuo Fushimi (t); Ryo Kawasaki (elg); Hiromasa Suzuki (kyb); Masura Imada (org); Yasuo Arakawa (b); Sadakazu Tabata (d).
(3) Nobuo Hara (reeds) and His Sharps & Flats with Hozan Yamamoto (f).
(4) Tomoki Takahashi (reeds); Kazumi Watanabe (elg); Haruo Ogoshi (b); Ryojiiro Furusawa (d).
(5) Masahiko Sato (p).
(6) Takashi Mizuhashi (b); Teruo Nakamura (b); Herbie Hancock (kyb); Bruno Carr (d).
(7) Hiromasa Suzuki, Jun Fukamachi (kyb); Kyoshi Sugimoto (elg); Jiro Inagaki (reeds, f).
(8) Shigeharu Mukai (tb); Kazuhide Motooka (p); Toshikiyuki Daitoku (kyb); Tomoki Takahashi (reeds); Hideaki Mochizuki (elb); Ryojiiro Furusawa (d).
(9) Nobuo Hara (reeds) and his Sharps & Flats, arr. Hiromasa Suzuki (kyb).
(10) Kiyoshi Sugimoto (elg); Hideo Ichikama (kyb); Akira Okazawa (b); Shuichi Murukami (d).
(11) Hiromasa Suzuki, Jurio Inagaki & Big Soul Media.
(12) Mickie Yoshino (kyb); Kazumi Watanabe (elg); 18-piece ensemble.
(13) Toshiyuki Miyama (reeds) & His New Herd.
(14) Shigeharu Mukai (tb); Tomoki Takahashi, Hidefumi Toki (reeds); Toshikiyuki Daitoku (kyb); Mitsuaki Furuno (elb); Kenichi Kameyama (d).
(15) Mikio Masuda (syn, kyb); Kazumi Watanabe (elg); Motohiko Hamase (elb); Hideo Yamaki (d).
(16) Fumio Itabashi (p); Yoshio Ohtomo (ss); Hiroshi Hatsuyama (vib); Hideaki Mochizuki, Koichi Yamazaki (b); Ryojiiro Furusawa (d). Various locations, Japan 1968-1981.
Nippon Columbia, BBE 731CCD