Wednesday 29 November 2023

More Japanese fusion with Kazumasa Akiyama in 3 albums

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Monday 27 November 2023

Dieter Reith's Join Us 1979 by request

I posted the Love and Fantasy album here which I thought was magnificent. His discogs bio is quite extensive:

Dieter Reith (February 25, 1938 - April 1, 2020) was a German jazz pianist, organist, arranger, and composer. Born in Mainz, Germany, he embarked on his musical journey at an early age, commencing piano lessons in 1945. His dedication to music led him to the jazz scene, where he made a notable impact. After completing his education, which included studies in musicology and experimental physics, he joined the SWF Big Band in 1961, becoming its pianist until 1971. Reith's talent and versatility also led him to serve as the organist for Peter Herbolzheimer's Rhythm Combination & Brass from 1970 to 1976.

In 1973, Dieter Reith relocated to Stuttgart, where he played a pivotal role in directing the SWR Big Band and the SWR Radio Orchestra for various productions. He was not only a prolific musician but also an accomplished arranger, contributing his skills to numerous TV projects, radio productions, and recording sessions. One of his notable achievements was his work on the television show "Verstehen Sie Spaß?" where he conducted the accompanying SWR Big Band from 1980 to 2002.

Throughout his career, Reith collaborated with a distinguished array of jazz luminaries, including Stan Getz, Jean-Luc Ponty, Art Farmer, Frank Rosolino, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Kenny Clarke, Philip Catherine, Benny Bailey, Slide Hampton, Maynard Ferguson, Toots Thielemans, and Herb Geller. Dieter Reith's contributions to jazz and music continue to be celebrated, and he left an enduring legacy in the world of music. He passed away on April 1, 2020, in Stuttgart, Germany, but his musical influence lives on.

On the whole this is a bit more disappointing, more generic, less composed, than the other effort posted long ago. For ex., the title track which starts it off:

Saturday 25 November 2023

Makoto Matsushita in 4 albums

From discogs:

Japanese multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, lyricist and vocalist.
Born November 16, 1955.

In these albums he presents his commercial pop side with vocal tracks, quite different from the roughly contemporaneous Paradigm Shift which he had compositional credits on and which were far more in the progressive direction.  From the first 1981 album, First Light, the track called Sunset gives you an idea and the whole album, despite the genre or style descriptions all over the place on discogs, has neither jazz-funk nor prog rock on it:

That first album is without a doubt the strongest.

The track called Recollection from the later album called Visions documents how he moved into the ambient new agey electronic sphere later on:

Wednesday 22 November 2023

S. Nakamura next in in Paradigm Shift, in 3 albums (1985 to 1989)

Not much info on the discogs page here.  The genre / style for the first ST album is described as "Electronic, Rock, Ambient, Synth-pop, Abstract, AOR" in reality, it's progressive fusion with electronic additions throughout, similar perhaps to the later 1980s Omura albums just posted, or the later Kazumi Watanabe albums like To Chi Ka or even old favourite Fukamachi in his 80s cartoon or video game related phase, like on Queen Emereldus

There is a nice alternation between more high energy dissonant King Crimson-derived riffing and gentler piano pieces, for ex. consider this sample from the first album called Nostalgia which let's admit it is almost as good as material by our great master Jun Fukamachi, especially with the application of synth elements on top of acoustic piano:


Incidentally note that the composer is the keyboardist called Makoto Matsushita.

Here and there we also encounter vocal tracks with some pop or commercial leanings, understandably.

Actually all 3 of the releases are worth hearing with only a little dip in quality for the last one which came in 1989.  

The second album has the lovely title of "The Rain Child and the River King" sounding a bit like a fairy tale. But again on discogs the genre description sounds totally mixed up.

The track inappropriately called The Naked Girl with the Fever Drum really blew me away and hopefully yourself too, that descending chromatic riff and the furious fast energy they employ in slamming it out is just mindboggling, as well note the middle passage with the KC-like spacey sounds:

From the third and last, it's obvious they take music composition seriously from the track called "Etude #1, Water Lily:"

Monday 20 November 2023

Satoshi Nakamura and Splaash, 1979


Another band with K. Omura in it, another smooth fusion release. Discogged here.

Regarding S. Nakamura:

Saxophone & keyboard player / producer / arranger. Guest musician with the Japanese group Paradigm Shift. Born 16 September 1954 in Saitama, Japan.

Like the preceding post, very smooth and accessible stuff for what it's worth, only one LP from this grouping from 1979.

Sample track, One of a kind:

Saturday 18 November 2023

Japanese smooth fusion band Nobu Caine


Much smoother fusion given that we are now in the late 80s to 90s. 

Kenji Omura was in this band which is what led me to it:

Japanese jazz-fusion band formed by Toshiki Kadomatsu and Nobu Saito in 1988.

Throughout its lifespan, the band had many lineups that featured legendary fusion musicians.

Silent Lakeside:

Thursday 16 November 2023

Japanese guitarist Junshi Yamagishi in two Guitar Work Shops, Really, and All the Same (1978 to 1980)

Junshi Yamagishi (aka June Yamagishi. Japanese guitarist, based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Born on June 6, 1953 in Ise City, Mie prefecture, Japan.

Another  really remarkable Japanese performer and guitarist.

He played in tons of bands, none of which I am familiar with.  A tune called Pop from the 1980 album is the most progressive leaning piece:

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Back to Kenji Omura with Spring is here (1981), Gaijin Heaven (1983)


I couldn't resist going back to complete his discography, based on how strong the first two records were with the energetic and enjoyable, perhaps a bit too accessible fusion. In the next two, he is definitely in tune with the eighties because you'll hear those dreaded drum machines, the jumpy rhythms, and simple sounds and chords which you'd fully naturally expect, as well as relatively simple and commercial songs. There isn't the same crazy progressive fusion of the absolutely brilliant guitarist Kazumi Watanabe which I put in several parts way back when and who carried on to the next decade with his Kaylyn, To Chi Ka, etc. continuing on even to recent years. I mean, not many people could resist the commercial allure of that period, considering paradigmatic prog originators Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins completely sold out.

It was worth finding these records though because on 1981's Spring is Here, he does a wonderful vocal rendition of a track I'd completely forgot existed: Far East Man, the sweet and easy laidback hit song written by mostly George Harrison (from his 1974 Dark Horse album) but co-credited to Ronny Wood:

You might remember the 'Far East Man' to whom the song refers is Ravi Shankar.
Otherwise a few good tracks to listen to, here and there.

On the follow up called Gaijin Heaven we can say just about the same: minimal progressive fusion, the instrumental electric intensity has been abandoned in favour of more accessible music. But on this one he does a cover song of what I thought was a Robert Wyatt song, At Last I Am Free, but to my shock I found out it was by Chic-- of "Freak Out" fame.  You can read the story of that here, interestingly enough. (And an article in the Financial Times, no less!) Having listened to all the versions though, I have to say that Omura's is by far the best, because it's well arranged, he sped it up a bit, and in the end he makes it altogether more emotional than his predecessors.  I just love the unusual irony (for a pop song), juxtaposing the repeated "At last I am free," with the next line, "I can hardly see in front of me" (referring I guess to a sad breakup):

Sunday 12 November 2023

Kenji Omura in First Step, 1980 with flac limited time only


I'm amazed at how well he redid the old Eric Clapton composition Better Make it Thru the Day, from his 1975 album 461 Ocean Blvd:

Otherwise it's the same stuff as the previous album, sometimes literally the same tracks rehashed. 
But really fun to listen to.

Friday 10 November 2023

Kenji Omura in Kenji Shock, 1979, with flac limited time only

From discogs:

Japanese jazz-fusion and later session guitarist, member of the expanded Yellow Magic Orchestra live band and played on many albums by the group and their many solo projects. Born 5-May-1949, died 18-Nov-1998.

There is no human being--so far as I know--who wouldn't agree his composition Left-Handed Woman is absolutely priceless:

Rhythm Road:

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Theo Jörgensmann Quartet Feat. John Thomas - Go Ahead Clarinet, 1978


Informational page here

I was surprised to see all the different places this wonderful German clarinetist has cropped up, for ex. the Grotesk of Groh (did I post them here?), the first free jazz Contact album, Contraband which of course I posted quite recently here.  

Starting with this album from 1978, which I was really impressed by, there's some quite intriguing and original compositions played by basically a comtemporary jazz outfit, which is exactly what I was expecting to find but was pleasantly surprised to find more. 

Right from the beginning you'll get a sense of what I mean with the oddly titled Porc Binaire Roti (written by the drummer Kube equally oddly):

The closing track December 4th was written by the sax player Uli Lask:

Sunday 5 November 2023

John Thomas + Lifeforce in 3000 Worlds, 1981


Info on this one here.

As You Once Were:

This meandering but beautiful track, obviously composed by John Thomas, reminds me a lot of the old Bill Evans stuff like Blue in Green.

Friday 3 November 2023

John Thomas Williams and Lifeforce in Devil Dance, 1980

The first of 2 albums John Thomas made with a band called Lifeforce.

Info here. Similar to the preceding post with basic contemporary jazz obviously with electric guitar front and centre, some vocals.

Seven Kinds of Jewels:

Wednesday 1 November 2023

European Jazz Consensus - Four for Slavia, 1978

An earlier band (from International JC) with Roidinger as well, more avant garde and free jazz in style.

Informational content here.

Before and After:

I think it's well worth listening to, for the interesting moments that pop up here and there, through the dense fog of meandering improvisation.