Pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, who passed away just a few months ago, was one of most significant piano jazz master in Japan. Never so loud and radical as Masahiko Satoh or Yosuke Yamashita, Kikuchi spend big part of his life in New York playing with local artists. During 70s and 80s he was one of the fusion star on Japanese scene,later worked a lot on a movies soundtracks and during last decades returned to more mainstream jazz,playing post bop with Paul Motian and/or Gary Peacock or more chamber jazz with Japanese musicians.
It's interesting that on his most current albums Masabumi obviously showed increasing interest to freer jazz even if one can find a very few avant-garde Kikuchi's recordings coming from genre's "golden age" of late 60s or mid 70s.His ECM debut "Sunrise",released only three years ago (when Kikuchi was 73 years old),contains good example of Kikuchi's meditative free form improvisational jazz.
Recordings,presented on this new album,have been made a year before material,released on ECM's "Sunrise", but have been never released till now. Quartet of Masabumi on piano,American bassists of younger generation Ben Street and Thomas Morgan (who recorded on "Sunrise" as well)and Danish drummer Kresetn Osgood plays on eight fully improvised compositions,which not really sound like such.
Masabumi has been interested for quite a long time in new look on structure of songs, experimenting with tuneful fragments which in fact were too short for being true finished compositions,but sounded as part of (non-existing) longer pieces.Music,presented on this album, is probably best illustration of this his concept.
Each musical fragment (all them have no titles, and just numbered in increasing order)starts from the middle of some abstract tune and goes nowhere but at the same time never loosing initial tune or rhythm. Paul Motian-influenced Osgood drumming and double acoustic basses muscular groove builds excellent platform for slow to mid-tempo but no way lazy percussive piano. For outsider all this action sounds as he's listening to knotty improvisations of some composed tunes when music stays easy accessible and even almost catchy but he just doesn't can catch the tune,running away from him every next second.
As whole album, this music has magic ability to fix your attention from first sounds till the very end and leaves the listener with a feeling as if he heard full concert of different songs or one conceptual piece which has been developed before him under some quirky and secret formula. At the same time you understand that you can't recall even a single tune because of very simple reason - there were not true tunes presented.
The only serious warning for potential listeners of this album - it is full of Kikuchi vocalizes. If you are not happy about Keith Jarrett's moaning on some his recordings,then stay away from this Kikuchi work. Masabumi here sighs and moans hundred time louder and more often than you can hear on nosiest Jarrett recordings. For me personally,Kikuchi's vocalize is just a component of his music here and it only adds more special atmosphere,but I believe for some listeners it could destroy all music's beauty. Most probably Kikuchi's singing was one of the reasons why such a good material, recorded in 2008, hasn't been released till now.
Released on Danish ILK label, this album isn't so hard to find for on line purchase, but because of limited advertising and distribution possibilities there is a big chance it will stay almost unnoticed. Find it and you will enjoy one of the best ever Kikuchi's recorded music,at the same time experiencing unusual beauty of fully improvised jazz.