MASABUMI KIKUCHI — Feel You (review)

MASABUMI KIKUCHI — Feel You album cover Album · 1993 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Piano player Masabumi Kikuchi, who passed away in 2015, was an unsung hero of multicultural American-Japanese jazz. Born in Tokyo in 1939 and living in New York from 1974, he went a long way on both US and Japan scenes, playing with greats such as Gil Evans, Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson and Terumasa Hino among many others. Masabumi experienced early fame as a leader playing then popular fusion in early 70s, and partially playing an early synthesizers jazz. From 90s, he became a member of Paul Motian band for decades still releasing his own albums extensively.

"Feel You" is one of Kikuchi's more obscure releases, recorded in New York and released in Japan and Germany. Here Masabumi plays as old school acoustic trio with lesser known Americans bassist James Genus and drummer Victor Jones. Stylistically covering large range of genres, "Feel You" is first of all true TRIO's album. Each member has his own significant voice here, and there is enough space for every one of them.

Album opens and closes with "Pain Killer"(I & II respectively). Funky memorable tune with deep wooden bass sounds as if the bassist is a leader of the trio. "Zig Zag" comes as true 70s post bop song with a spark, here (as well as on some others compositions) one can hear Kikuchi's moaning, not in such annoying way as Jarrett does, fortunately.

"Free Stroll" is mid-tempo freer piece, as it's title says, and the longest song on this album. Partially constructed as a dialogue between soloing piano and double bass with a support of drummer, this song is surprisingly accessible, even attractive despite of its quite loose structure.

"Little Treat" is a little ballad quite similar to such well known from Paul Motian's trio recordings (surprisingly, it is James Genus' original, the only other than Kikuchi's originals on this album, which besides of them contains two standards as well). "It Never Entered My Mind" is one of the standards (written by Hart & Rodgers), sounding here slightly melancholic and very airy.

Masabumi Kikuchi was known by his own very individual piano playing manner, when playing he's been leaving a lot of silence between separate notes. Some called his manner "a Japanese influence", he often wasn't agreeable with this tag, but as a result his music is very often quite meditative, with a touch of melancholy, but with a strict control over emotional coloring. Being a child of two radically different megalopolises, Tokyo and New York, Masabumi very often sounds as a lonely artist in a big city. Like Woody Allen in his movies, Masabumi paints his New York, just not from the Near East or Eastern Europe (Allen's heritage), but from his big city Zen-Buddhist roots.

"Up Beat Blues" actually is a brilliant post-bop piece with sultry sound demonstrating excellent collaboration between all three band members. "20th St. Shuffle" is an acoustic fusion of sort, where Kikuchi plays minimalist staccato piano over the drummer's fanfares, imitating a moving train's sound all song long.

Even if the album looks quite eclectic in genres on paper, in real life it sounds organic, united in one musical post from a capable and inspired trio.

Since both original vinyl releases (Japanese and European) are collectable rarities, the only existing reissue on CD (coming from Japan,2015) is probably easier and cheaper to find. Not really the album for newcomers, "Feel You" is interesting and valuable release for everyone who already found out the original beauty of Kikuchi's better known works and wants more.
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