MASABUMI KIKUCHI — Sunrise (review)

MASABUMI KIKUCHI — Sunrise album cover Album · 2012 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
snobb
Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi has been recorded for the first time as far ago as in 1963(on Toshiko Akiyoshi and Charlie Mariano's East & West). Since that he played and recorded with Gil Evans,Paul Motian and Gary Peacock among many others. Masabumi's peack of popularity as a leader came in early 70s when he released series of fusion albums, adding more freedom in generally strongly Miles Davis-influenced sound.

Since that Masabumi has been living in New York for four decades (where he passed away in 2015)but never received true recognition. His another more significant project was Tethered Moon - trio with Paul Motian and Gary Peacock. Starting from late 80s his albums are all obscure,during his last years Masabumi played mostly exclusively with different Motian projects.

For those familiar with Kikuchi music from 70s his works from few last decades could sound as serious surprise: searching for his own way Kikuchi tried many fields,from series of synthesizer music albums to dub. Still quite unusually for jazz musician's career Masabumi found his very own voice only in 00', at some his last years before passing away. Already on his duo album with excellent Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino,released in 2007, one can find Kikuchi's specific signature playing - abstract mid-tempo piano improvisations build of tunes micro-snippets with lot of space around.

"Sunrise" is Kikuchi's first album as leader for years and his debut on one of the most prestigious jazz label ECM (it took almost half of the century for Masabumi to wait between his first recording and this debut!).Recorded in New York with his regular collaborators drummer Paul Motian (for whom it became his last studio recording ever) and acoustic bassist Thomas Morgan, "Sunrise" is a collection of fully improvised songs,full of space and sounding surprisingly lyrical and poetic for such kind of music.

Kikuchi doesn't care much about piano playing techniques, he builds quite meditative and partially impressionistic music (so well known by Paul Motian own works)using spontaneous harmonies and lot of silence. Some tempo variations give enough life to whole recording saving it from being monotonous. The only imperfection of this album is quite unusual for ECM products low dynamic range of whole recording. Too often it feels like sound of quite energetic piano trio comes as filtered through cotton-wool filter. Play it as loud as you can to avoid this acoustic discomfort.

Few years later,already posthumously,ECM will release Kikuchi's only second release on the label. Live piano concert,recorded in 2012 in Tokyo,has a better sound and Kikuchi plays really slower, what makes silence (and that feeling of waiting for something what is expected but will never come in real)will illustrate his unique style in full. I want to believe Kikuchi was a lucky artist - all his life he has been searching for his own sound in jazz, and at last found it at the end of his long way.
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