MASAHIKO SATOH Amalgamation

Album · 1971 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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3.5/5 ·
snobb
The jazz world is full of stereotypes, a very popular one is that Japanese jazz is secondary by its origin, and at its best, just copying the best examples of American or European jazz. This is only partially correct.

Influenced by the Western creative jazz golden era of the late 60s-early 70s, the Japanese jazz scene was very vibrant, full of creativity and experimentation. Unfortunately, just two or three years later, this wave disappeared almost leaving without a trace. Obscure releases from 1969-1971 are often known only to a small amount of Japanese jazz fans, and it's a pity because some of these recordings are really worth being heard by any advanced jazz lover.

One reason why listeners are often quite critical toward Japanese jazz is the starting point of view. It's true that even some of the best works are usually a collection of influence, but since dubbing and/or DJ jazz are both part of the jazz scene for decades, originality of the musical raw material doesn't sound as a serious criteria. More important is how this material was used.

Pianist/keyboardist Masahiko Satoh is one of the leading Japanese jazz musicians and one of the country's avant-garde jazz architect and engineer. He started using synthesizers, loops and overdubbing during the very early 70s, doing it in his own manner. "Amalgamation" is his best known work and one of a few cornerstones of Japanese progressive jazz.

This album contains two long compositions, each broken into a few small pieces. The first composition is seriously influenced by Miles' early fusion and combines electronic space jazz with heavy guitar licks from Japanese guitar hero Kimio Mizutani. Satoh uses three MiniMoogs and Roland ring modulators, former Cannonball Adderley drummer Louis Hayes builds a thunder-like frame. If it wouldn't be enough, Satoh adds machine gun fire sounds and radio recorded voices. Organ passages are similar to Brian Auger (or Jon Lord's early Deep Purple). The second composition is different - based more on free jazz improvs, also adding some brass section sounds and some quirky vocals.

The whole album sounds like a mosaic of influences, but mounted in a very Japanese manner - without beginning and end or internal relation between separate peaces and full of existential (or Zen) balances between explosive and peaceful elements. It would be a mistake to try to find what lays under the surface, this music is just a collage of a moment's reality rather than a philosophically reworked picture.

Great music if you'll find the key on how to hear it in the right way, (and if you will, you most probably will become a hunter searching for more obscure Japanese avantgarde jazz releases from this short but extremely interesting period).
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