Note: This record appears to go under many names: Shinkai (which translates as Deep Sea), Duo Deep Sea and ABYSSE Duo. The last one is the name on the record labels website, PSF so it will be the one used in this review. However, this post will be tagged with all the names used.
Recorded 1969/10/09, released 1994 on PSF records.
Run Time: 66:15 minutes.
Lonely Woman (Ornette Coleman): 19:13
Lacy’s Out East (Charles Tyler): 15:09
Four Units (Masahiko Togashi): 21:35
Shinkai (Mototeru Takagi): 10:18
Wikipedia Links for both musicians:
Motoharu Yoshizawa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motoharu_Yoshizawa
Mototeru Takagi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mototeru_Takagi
These links provide basic information on the musicians and their importance to the Japanese Free scene. They also provide some context as to why this album is a seminal for the Japanese Free scene. The Motoharu Yoshizawa trio (no known recordings) were instrumental to the Japanese Free scene and that trio featured Mototeru Takagi. This record is the closest thing we have to that trio and therefore is a representation of the beginning of the Japanese Free scene. It is an invaluable document. With some context, onto the record itself.
Both musicians on this album are exceptional players. From this point onwards it is safe to assume that everything Motoharu Yoshizawa does is going to be awesome. Wether its plucked bass, bowed bass, avant/free music or traditional forms Motoharu Yoshizawa always displays outstanding musicianship and a fantastic technique. This versatility allows the duo on this record to flourish. Also his tone is always resonant and ascendant, giving the duo a strong foundation on which to improvise on. His solo’s are always well crafted, containing both traditional and free forms. Motoharu Yoshizawa’s performance on this record is just another one of his amazing pieces of work.
His partner though Mototeru Takagi more than matches him. Playing tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and recorder Mototeru Takagi displays excellent versatility in both traditional and free forms. He is also an incredibly fluent between low and high registers. Mototeru Takagi has a similar range to Kaoru Abe but while Kaoru Abe seems to speed through the gears Mototeru Takagi seems more fluid in doing so. His tone is really astounding. The best way I can describe it is a noir version of Archie Shepp. If that makes sense. Mototeru Takagi also has the ability, and its the first time I have heard this to change instruments in song. Apart from Shinkai which is all bass clarinet Mototeru Takagi plays all three of his instruments on the rest of the tracks. He does this extremely well, giving the duo even more diversity.
Which leads us nicely into their performance as a duo. Incredible. Given that they have played together before it is clear that they have an impressive understanding of each others playing style and tendencies. When one plays in a dissonant style the other will play a holding role, playing more traditional forms. However when the time is right, say after an extended period of quiet playing both a willing participants in the art of dissonance. Equal solo space is shared and each musician is given ample time to show off their respected abilities. The solo’s are always beneficial to the piece in question. Another thing to highlight about their playing is the use of silence and space. Granted at any one time a musician is playing but they both know when to let the other one play without interference. However when it appears to be the correct thing to do they are both very adept at filling in the gaps which the other musician leaves. Motoharu Yoshizawa’s bass playing shows an excellent understanding of space, letting notes develop and then fade into dust. Mototeru Takagi is quite brilliant at filling these gaps, but only when it fits into the context of the improvisation. Mototeru Takagi is aware, and vice versa when Motoharu Yoshizawa is soloing well and lets the solo exists as a singular entity. Both musicians are perfectly in synch with each other, and listening the record proves this beyond doubt.
As for the music on the record, individual highlights would have to be Four Units and Shinkai although the entire record is great. Four Units over the course of its run time is a representation of everything that is great about this duo. Equal use of traditional and free forms. Traditional crescendo’s into free expression and solo’s are natural extensions of the improvisation. Motoharu Yoshizawa provides an excellent foundation for the majority of the piece letting Mototeru Takagi use his saxophones full range. Mototeru Takagi meshes fragmented noise with fluent playing and Mototeru Takagi knows when to ease up and to allow Motoharu Yoshizawa time to improvise. There is an outstanding duet between bowed bass and bass clarinet, mixing beauty and chaos. The theme is constantly referenced and is returned to at the end of the piece with a wonderful display of bowed bass and graceful saxophone fades.
Shinkai is a duet between bass and bass clarinet. Mototeru Takagi is exceptional on bass clarinet, alternating between beautiful deep-sea tones and the chaos of the higher registers. His changes between these two are fluid and never sound forced. Motoharu Yoshizawa is once again in top form alternating between bowed and plucked bass. The end is particularly beautiful. Deep, sonorous sounds befitting Asian Mountain paintings with avant-garde noises blended in sounding like roaring gibbons. But the avant noises fade out, and we are left with the sonorous sounds, the two musicians sounding like two mountain sages enjoying each others company.
Other highlights abound throughout the album. On Lonely Woman Motoharu Yoshizawa plays the main theme in an utterly mesmeric manner. There is also a great part of the piece were Mototeru Takagi’s recorder dances between the sounds of Motoharu Yoshizawa’s plucked bass. The end is quite magnificent as well with Motoharu Yoshizawa bringing the noise and Mototeru Takagi’s film noir tone playing the theme.
Lacy’s Out East features some excellent rhythmic playing from the pair and some great melodic playing.
Lastly, this record was recorded in front of a live audience in Shinjuku which further highlights the amazing abilities of these musicians. It is the perfect album to highlight the fact that in Jazz ” a title is just a title”. Barring Shinkai all these tracks versions of other people’s music and yet each piece has been given a new identity.
In conclusion this is an excellent record, and an outstanding performance by a sublime duo. It is truly one of the best Jazz duets ever. Check it out.
The album can be bought directly from PSF : http://www.psfrecords.com/ (order information can be found on the main page),
Japan Improv : http://www.japanimprov.com/ (order information is on the CD shop)
Other places were you can buy this are Soundohm and I think Forcedexposure as well. Also Sound323. Simple google searches will find these pages for you.
This is my first attempt at a record review so some feedback would be incredibly helpful. Thank you and I hope you enjoy it.