Aki Takase Trio: Song For Hope

Reissue of the 1981 album from the Berlin jazz festival that helped power the Japanese pianist's international career


This superb reissue is from Takase’s European debut at the 1981 Berlin Jazz Festival, originally released on Enja in 1982. That excellent European label helped the careers of many Japanese masters including Terumasa Hino and Yosuke Yamashita.

Takase was born in Osaka in 1948, and brought up in Tokyo. She studied classical music and later got interested in contemporary composition and jazz. In 1972, she moved to New York, working with Lester Bowie, John Zorn and Dave Liebman. She then returned to Japan to record her debut for Seven Seas/King Records, released in 1978. She has lived in Berlin since 1987 and is married to German pianist and composer Alexander von Schlippenbach. She’s also worked with David Murray, Fred Frith, Evan Parker and Maria João.

Takase has a first-rate rhythm team here. Bassist Ino has been on the Japanese jazz scene since 70s, working with Fumio Itabashi, Masayuki Takayanagi and others. Drummer Moriyama is equally accomplished.

The hypnotic title track is the highlight for me. It’s not a tribute to Elmo Hope, but rather to Pharoah Sanders – a motif that Takase developed from one of his riffs. When this is pointed out, the influence becomes clear. The other three compositions are pure Takase, and all are excellent. The first is solo, while the third – Minerva’s Owl – is a plangent ballad, which Dave Liebman had interpreted on a previous release. The final track, Mountain Forest, is free jazz – the main drawback here is a five-minute drum solo that outstays its welcome.

This cavil apart, there’s nothing to criticise here, and much to admire. Takase’s career was securely launched, and her relationship with Enja continued continued for 30 years. We are greatly in that label’s debt.

Monologue; Song For Hope; Minerva’s Owl; Mountain Forest (37.57)
Takase (p); Nobuyoshi Ino (b); Takeo Moriyama (d). Berlin, November 1981.