"Akashi"(嵐)is exceptional album in history of Japanese avant-garde jazz. Recorded in September 1976 and released next year, it is kind of swan song of country's free jazz golden era.
Pianist Yosuke Yamashita beside of Masahiko Satoh is a key person in Japanese avant-garde jazz piano. Heavily influenced by Cecil Taylor, Yosuke has his own sound though - not so heavy,very fast,colder(more mechanical?)and kind of sliding. Still main "Akashi"'s hero is not him, but excellent sax player Akira Sakata who at the time was regular member of Yamashita Trio. With third trio member Shota Koyama and guest reedist Gerald Oshita band surprisingly often sounds as much bigger orchestra. Being a direct recording from live show with 13-piece Butoh dance troupe, double album contains some places where not much happens (at least musically) what made it a bit inconsistent (obviously video version could fill that gap), but it doesn't destroy the overall impression too much.
Starting from catchy cover art (with one of dancers pictured in action)and very first opener's sounds the listener can expect something non-ordinary and he wouldn't be disappointed. Almost twelve-minutes long opener "Moonlight Desert" is perfect tuneful song with one sax playing almost straight beautiful melody and the other jumping and squawking all around with unbelievable speed and intensity.
In longer than one and half hour concert there are everything you want - free jazz sax acrobatics, characteristic Eastern percussion,ethnic Japanese elements and ambient noises,blended with dancers steps on the scene's floor,which can be well heard in moments and than become part of rhythm section. There are trio's very own version of Albert Ayler's "Ghosts"(Ayler was a very strong influence to sax player Akira Sakata) or better to say - two versions, which cover vinyl version Side A and opens Side B. The later contains screaming vocals (in Japanese) by its intensity and emotional level beating highest Japanese standards.
Central album's part (partially sides B & C) are filled mostly with short minimalist piano-led miniatures, sometimes almost groovy, in moments - near classic, almost all - elegantly beautiful,which most probably serving dance troupe actions. Still two longer pieces (between 18 and 21 minutes long) return band on the front of the scene.
Very variable, this album has that cinematic feel when the music is of so good quality that being formally a soundtrack for theatrical action is successfully living its own life. And even more - all this is played and performed live - and that real-time atmosphere is perfectly presented.
Even late 70s already weren't so great for such music in Japan, it's just a miracle how such a large-scale show/recording ever happened. Very soon domestic free jazz stars will go low profile playing small underground venues or re-switching to always popular on Japanese scene hard bop.
Being a Japanese-only release, this album stayed in a shade for decades. Reissued by Super Fuji Discs as double CD set, it became more accessible (but not all that cheap still). For fans of Japanese free jazz or/and Akira Sakata's sax playing it's worthy of every euro spent though.