If you're new in Japanese avant-garde jazz, one of the very first names you will hear is Masahiko Togashi.Drummer from his teens,in 60s he played in internationally most known Japanese jazz man of the time Sadao Watanabe's band.In late 60s together with pianist Masahiko Satoh he became one of icon of Japanese just-born free jazz. In 1969 he lost use of his legs as a result of accident,but stayed playing music using his own percussion techniques.Paradoxically, right from same 1969 he started releasing albums as a leader and has been prolific artist up to the end of the century.
Speaking about his musical legacy,his best works are still his collaborative albums,not solo releases,especially those coming from late 60s - early 70s. After burgeoning early 70s avant-garde jazz scene it was declined very fast in a few years after and never returned back even a part of such popularity again.It's common for almost every Japanese avant garde jazz artist of first generation that in mid 70s after some years of glory they stayed out of place and often out of job. Many changed the direction to moment-fashionable fusion,some switched to most respectable jazz form in Japan - hard bop.Many of them tried to return to more adventurous music later but rare succeeded - as rule having no mainstream jazz roots,first generation's free jazzers just got stuck in their youth music without finding any development possibilities.
Togashi,having hands-only drumming/percussion abilities, from very early step developed his own percussive sound combining African tom-tom and meditative Japanese techniques,just using them both in a free manner.It sounded quite unusual and progressive in early 70s but didn't change much after decades. Few his solo (percussion only) albums were quite successful demonstrating early world music-influenced (or pre-new age) aesthetics,but generally quality of almost any Togashi's album heavily depends on collaborators participated. Being kind of celebrity in Japanese jazz,Togashi always has ability to form strong bands, "Bura Bura" recorded concert isn't exception.
On paper,"Bura Bura" team looks like all-stars quartet where Togashi is supported by Steve Lacy on Soprano, trumpeter Don Cherry and bassist Dave Holland.In real life things are a bit different. If Steve Lace (who was most probably more popular in Japan than anywhere else for decades)was regular Togashi's musical partner playing with bhim during his every of twelve Japanese tours,for Cherry and Holland such collaboration is a new thing.As a result all concert sounds more like jam than improvisational collaboration.Of all ten songs,recorded during concert in Tokyo,only four were used on original "Bura Bura" album - two Togashi's originals and two Lacy's. It's quite understandable since at least Togashi and Lacy were both familiar with that material.
Togashi's originals both are tuneful and very percussive, but hardly memorable. Cherry plays beautiful trumpet solos on "Contrast",but it hardly saves all song - feeling of raw jam session stays all album long. Two Lacy's originals are both well known and easy recognizable, "Wickets" and especially "Flakes" were played and recorded by Lacy himself much more often than once or twice."Wickets" even contains insert from John Lee Hooker's blues with Don Cherry vocals! These songs save album, it's obvious how Lacy compositional abilities change music quality for good(even if common musicianship still sound quite raw).
It's interesting that French release of "Bura Bura" contains quite different selection from the same concert's material - adding Don Cherry original "Mopti" and changing Togashi's "Contrast" to his other song,"Spiritual Nature",coming from his one of the most commercially successful album of the same title,recorded in 1975 (with Sadao Watanabe on board,among others). Most probably such choice is an adaptation for European market.
At last,in 2002 all 10 songs were released in Japan as double CD.Probably good choice for collector,this version has its pros and cons. It contain some better songs than were chosen for original LP,but at the same time it contains around 100 minutes of music,10 loose compositions of which only two are shorter than 11 minutes and far not all music is so interesting.It's not the album you will listen too often for sure.
In all, near average Togashi's album where sound names don't generate expected quality, but still nice listening.