MASAHIKO SATOH — Samadhi: Masahiko Meets Gary (review)

MASAHIKO SATOH — Samadhi: Masahiko Meets Gary album cover Album · 1972 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
American bassist Gary Peacock made his name playing around the US and in Europe with Albert Ayler, Paul Bley and (briefly) Miles Davis during the 60s. In 1969 he left for Japan where he studied biology until 1972. Starting in 1970, he actively participated in the Japanese jazz scene and recorded and released his debut studio and live albums (with local musicians). Here on "Samadhi", Gary collaborates with the leading Japanese piano/keyboards player of that time, Masahiko Satoh, and respectable drummer Matahiko Hino.

The session's leader, Satoh, after his return from the States (studies in Berklee) became a moving force in the world of Japanese avant-garde jazz, playing and recording with every significant artist around (during 1969-1973 he released at least ten albums as leader/co-leader). On "Samadhi", he leads his trio towards advanced improvisational free form jazz, influenced by Miles Davis' early fusion works.

Side A contains just one long composition on which Satoh plays piano, the piece is long, bulky and quite unfocused. Unusual for Japanese recordings (especially coming from 70s), the sound mix quality is far from perfect. The opening composition starts at a low sound level, with the loudness/intensity slightly growing with time, much like a live recording, but we are listening to a studio one! During the early 70s, Satoh actively used, characteristic for Japanese advanced jazz, "negative space" - silence as an important part of his compositions, and on some of his albums it works perfectly, but not here. The musicians obviously aren't his regular band and the interplay isn't good, it looks like everyone just plays his own music.

Side B is a relief though - Satoh switches to analog synths (probably the only electronic keyboard that sounds really good on avant-garde jazz recordings) on "Fairy Rings", and electric piano on "Fall Out". The compositions become framed and much better structured and now all the musicians are in their places. "Fairy Rings" is a freer and slightly psychedelic composition, reminding one of early "Weather Report" music. "Fall Out" is a "Mwandishi-like" fusion piece. If only all of the album were like side B! Peacock's warm and physical bass balances well with usually dry and emotionless Satoh.

In all, this album is a mixed bag. But like almost any Japanese jazz album coming from 1969-1973, it radiates incredible non-conformism and a search for innovations, both will disappear very soon from the Japanese jazz scene for decades. This is a significant work in Satoh's discography, most probably it will attract Peacock's serious fans as well. Reissued on CD in 2012, this album isn't a super-expensive rarity anymore.
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