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Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol. 1

Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol. 1

Deep, Heavy And Beautiful Jazz From Japan 1968 - 1984

I rarely go purposefully about buying records. Routinely, I let the look of the cover bait me into the purchase.

In this way, I have come into possession of some gems whose musical enjoyment I would otherwise have been denied. This includes the double LP Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol. 1 with the subtitle Deep, Heavy And Beautiful Jazz From Japan 1968 – 1984. The design of the record sleeve with a sunset over the sea in traditional Japanese graphics (similar to the “Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Katsushika Hokusai) had piqued my curiosity.

Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol. 1

The sampler was compiled by Yusuke Ogawa. Tadaaki Misago and the Tokyo Cuban Boys open the sound kaleidoscope of this sampler with “Sakura Sakura”. Lushly orchestrated Afro-Cuban big band sound with sequences merging into jazz-rock mix up the auditory canals.

We continue with my favorite of the double album: Minoru Muraoka with the New Jazz Players can be experienced on “Muraiki” with the shakuhachi, a bamboo flute originating from traditional Japanese music. Played with fierce blowing noises, it (or is it a hissing ryū?) provides a spectacular introduction to the slowly building piece. The vibraphone sounds heighten the mysterious mood. The richness of timbre and the intense dynamics place high demands on the playback chain.

No less exciting is “Mago-Uta”, the interpretation of a Japanese folk song by Count Buffalo & The Jazz Rock Band. Traditional-sounding melodies lead into a rare-groove-esque jazz that becomes increasingly free, before finally fading out again in the Japanese melody.

With “Breeze”, Soul Media offers the necessary balm for the vestibulocochlear nerve. Electric piano and guitar sounds float on a foundation of soulful bass and lively percussion rhythms, complemented by relaxed brass sections. Yusuke Ogawa aptly describes the character of the piece: “restrained funkiness with a bitter-mild feel”. Its outstanding recording also meets audiophile demands.

The following “Sea View” by George is cut from a completely different cloth, the way the trio of bass, drums and organ rolls and rumbles is pure bliss. Comparisons with “Contort Yourself” by James White & the Blacks come to mind.

The third side begins with “Breath Prologue”. A melodiously played shakuhachi is sparingly accompanied by piano and percussion. This is followed by the contrasting “Do It!”, a soulful jazz rock hell ride with screeching electric guitars.

Hiroshi Suzuki relaxes the mind again with “Romance”, which is played with a relaxed flow. The dialog between saxophone and sonorous trombone has a special charm.

After the sound collage “Fourth Expression”, things get wild again. In the track “Mustache”, a live recording from 1970, Takeshi Inomata & Sound Ltd. compress a mixture of soul, swing and jazz rock into nine minutes, culminating in a furiously interpreted Beatles melody.

Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol. 1 is an exciting double album that demands my full attention. The quieter pieces with their strange melodies and sound structures make my mind wander off to far away lands in a most pleasant way. Just the thing for a reset of listening habits.

Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol. 1 on bandcamp.com

The stated retail price of the reviewed device is valid as of the time of the review and is subject to change.