Mal Waldron & Terumasa Hino: Reminicent Suite

Released for the first time outside Japan, this vinyl issue has Waldron and Hino's 1972 sextet blowing long and hard on one or two chords


Mal Waldron was born in Harlem, New York in 1925 and died in 2002. Seemingly destined to be a classical pianist, he was early attracted to jazz and recorded in the early 1950s with Jackie McLean, Charles Mingus, Max Roach and Gene Ammons. He also worked with Billie Holiday with whom he had a warm friendship during the last two years of her life, before moving to Europe and settling in Munich.

With a hypnotic, percussive and bop-influenced style, he regularly toured (and recorded) on his many visits to Japan where he became a cult figure with avant-garde musicians. Curiously, this date (recorded in 1972) with distinguished trumpeter Terumasa Hino and his quintet has never been released outside Japan – nor have any of his other Japanese albums.

This lavishly illustrated LP will doubtless attract some interest, if not actual enthusiasm. Waldron’s three-part composition Reminicent Suite (sic) occupies one side of the album, and Terumasa’s waltz-time Black Forest the other. Reminicent is dominated and marred by Hino’s high-pitched and rapidly delivered trumpet solos, with vamping (and monotonous) accompaniment from Waldron. Percussionists Motohiko and Uzi Imamura and bassist Isao Suzuki deftly manage the shifting tempos, but the piece then begins to unravel. To these unsympathetic ears, the entire piece is “reminiscent” of disorganised chaos.

Much the same can be said of Black Forest which is (mercifully) shorter but still “modal” jazz at its most impenetrable. Tenor saxophonist Uematsu does his best to enliven the proceedings but is defeated by an overlong drum solo and Waldron’s pianistic wanderings. NB: I may have received a faulty copy of this album as side two repeatedly (but fortunately) refused to play to the end without manual prompting.

For more favourable estimates than these, see the extensive notes (in Japanese and English) that are included with this vinyl album – as well as an informative 7,500 word essay on Waldron by Tony Higgins. What’s my own verdict on Reminicent Suite? Much Ado About Very Little.

Reminicent Suite :Dig It Deep Down; Baby; Echoes; Once More With Feeling (23.41) – Black Forest (18.36)
Waldron (p); Hino (t); Takao Uematsu (ts); Isao Suzuki (b); Motohiko Hino (d); Uzi Imamura (pc). Tokyo Victor Studio, 14 August 1972.
J JAZZ Master Class Series BBE682ALP