Toshiyuki Miyama is key figure in Japanese progressive big band music. He started playing jazz with his band still before WWII, after the war his big band was a hot name in US Navy clubs in Japan. His first recorded albums contained big band classics and popular tunes of the time up to late 60s,when avant-garde jazz invasion (mostly introduced by young Japanese jazzmen returned back from jazz studies in States) in one day revolutionized country's scene.
Starting from 1967-68 Miyama adapted new sound playing with leading genre local musicians. "Four Jazz Compositions" is not his band's first advanced release, but one among few very early such albums, and one among rarest. Still not its rarity is album's main attraction (unless you are collector), music it contains is quite unique even for that extremely advanced time.
It's public secret that discussions about originality (or better to say its absence) of Japanese jazz had long decades history. Here, on "Four Jazz Compositions" open ears listener will easily find some early evidence of what can be tagged as "original Japanese elements".
Album's opener ten-minutes long "Mumyoju" is Japanese leading avant-garde pianist and composer of the time Masahiko Satoh's composition (he plays on it as well, but percussion,not piano). It begins with silence,pierced with ascetic needles of percussion,minimal brass splashes and ethnically sounding koto. Stll silence (or "free air", as it often called in Japanese avant-garde music) is largest and most important composition's component. Music here is near static,in moments meditative but more often - quite dramatic and recall early Western contemporary avant-garde composers work, just with Eastern touch.
Second composition,"Shirabyoshi" opens as it's just a continuation of the previous one, but very soon piano,bass and brass section take their part - here one can be sure that all Orchestra is in action.From meditative down tempo it grows fast to something what could be tagged as "brass-rock orchestra",but on fourth minutes Miyama cuts the sound - the continuation sounds as well arranged pop-tune, probably movie soundtrack.It doesn't last long though - from sixth minute orchestra move toward full-bodied big band sound with muscular,rock-influenced rhythm section and brass fireworks. Growing tension expoleds close to ten-minutes mark and continues straight as nervous mid-tempo orchestral "Ikisudama", recalling more contemporary avant-garde piece than any form of jazz.The listener shouldn't be bored though - somewhere in the middle music somehow naturally transforms to full bodied big band sound, something what could be played by Mingus, As if it would be not enough, orchestra explodes with distorted sound,lot of almost cacophonous brass soloing,and at the end returns back to base - slow down till almost meditative,even if still nervous in moments avant-garde chamber orchestra sound.
Final fourth composition opens with drums solo and rolls ahead as tuneful richly brass arranged jazz-rock song,very cinematic,but still with some small distortions here and there.At the end this around forty minutes long album stays in memory as gallery of musical pictures,some more organically related than others, but never boring.
Miyama will continue releasing advanced big band releases for some more years,but "Four Jazz Compositions" (together with "Yamataifu","Eternity? ・Epos" and few more)will stay as one of best evidence of Japanese adventurous orchestrated jazz.