Free Form Suite, horizons widen on #neuguitars #blog
Takayanagi’s discography is a corpus ermeticus in which it’s difficult to enter. My lack of knowledge of the Japanese language certainly does not help and the reissues and new editions of hitherto unknown recordings alter a sequential temporal development. In addition, if musicians like Bailey and Rowe have always remained closely connected to a specific musical style, Takayanagi loved to wander long-range, always crossing different styles in a very personal way. And, besides, he loved to change the musicians to play with.
On 9 and 17 May 1971 the double bass player Kanai Hideto gathers some friends at the Aoi Studio, in Tokyo to record, as leader, an album with a decidedly minimal title; “Q”. The musicians involved were Allan Praskin, Kosuke Mine (Alto Saxophone), Tadayuki Harada (Baritone Saxophone), Motohiko Hino and Hiroshi Yamazaki (drums), Masamichi Suzuki (Trumpet), – Choyo Kanda (Xylophone), Hiroshi Koizumi (Flute), Masayuki Takayanagi (Guitar) and Hideto Kanai himself. Kanai Hideto was one of the veterans of free jazz japan, trained in the bases of the American army after the second world war. Later, in the 60s, he went from mainstream to free and together with Masayuki Takayanagi founded the Jazz Academy in 1960, also participating in the historical album “Ginparis Session – June 26,1963”. During his half-century career, Hideto recorded only four albums as a leader, all for the independent label Three Blind Mice. The opening and closing tracks of the album (the two longest compositions on the album) are the work of two contemporary Japanese classical composers, Shuko Mizuno and Hiroshi Nanatsuya, created specifically for this record. Takayagi Masayuki, in particular, “interprets” the Nanatsuya’s piece “Meditation”, presenting himself with a new line-up of New Direction, in a trio with a new drummer Hiroshi Yamazaki and Hiroshi Kazumi on flute. Hiroshi Kazumi, born in Kure, Hiroshima in 1944, is a Japanese classical flutist best known for his work with contemporary composers. He founded and led the Sound Space group “Ark” from 1972 until its dissolution in 1990. Hiroshi Yamazaki, born in Tokyo in 1940, has played under various names throughout his career. He began as a jazz drummer in 1959, performing with Hampton Hawes and other jazz veterans. From the late 1960s until the 1980s, he was heavily involved in the work of Masayuki Takayanagi. Other noteworthy collaborations include the DUO album with influential Japanese saxophonist Kaoru Abe, along with numerous performances ranging from orthodox jazz to free improvisation. In recent years he has performed regularly with Otomo Yoshihide.
The new formation did not have to displease the leader Takayanagi. We find them playing together at the Nihon Genyasai festival in Sanritsuka, Chiba from 14 to 16 August 1971. Performances well documented by the sumptuous box set “1971 幻 野 幻 の 野 は 現出 し た か ’71 日本 幻 野 祭 三 里 塚 で 祭 れ” and from the CD, made in 2007, entitled “Complete” La Grima “” which testifies to their performance on August 14, 1971.
But just one change of formation is not enough. A few days after recording Kanai Hideto’s album, May 19, 1971, Takayanagi enters the studio, also at Aoi Studio, to record another significant record for Japanese free jazz: “Free Form Suite”. Accompanying him are Kenji Mori, (Clarinet, Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Piccolo Flute, Recorder), and Hiroshi Yamazaki and Joe Mizuki on drums. Kenji Mori (born 1942) was a versatile musician whose main instrument was the alto saxophone, but equally at home with the tenor saxophone, several flutes, clarinet and even recorders. He has appeared on many Three Blind Mice records as a sideman, but rarely as a leader. Joe Mizuki, who was also associated with Takayanagi several times, passed away on March 20, 1997.
For the occasion, the formation slightly changes its name, becoming New Direction for the Arts. The album is another shining example of the musical heterogeneity that characterizes Takayanagi. Soejima Teruto writes in his book “Free Jazz in Japan”:
“As he wrote three years later, “…the author (Takayanagi) had his long cherished dream come true as the trio with Yoshizawa Motoharu and Toyozumi Yoshisaburo continued to rehearse in preparation for the recording at Teichiku in September of 1969 of his first work as leader, Independence. At that time, and continuing to this day, the goal has been finding concrete expression for the stillness and motion inherent in a space, in ‘gradual projection’ and, later on, in ‘mass projection.’ By mixing and combining these two approaches, truly infinite possibilities opened up. From one individual conception new techniques of playing developed, new choices of various new powerful tools, discoveries, creativity….” (from the liner notes to Free Form Suite)”
Free Form Suite consists of four pieces: The Blues, You Don’t Know What Love Is and Sun In The East which occupy the first side of the LP and Free Form Suite which takes all the second part. The album begins with a very traditional blues vibe that gradually morphs into a more contemporary form, continuing its journey in a refined Dolphy-like version of D. Raye, G. DePaul’s “You Don’t Know what love is”. “Sun In The East” pushes the accelerator of the group, with the double drums and percussion of Joe Mizuki and Hiroshi Yamazaki setting the pace, with Takayanagi leading the ensemble and Mori’s horns flying above. The live set concludes with the extended “Free Form Suite”, a piece that definitely lives up to its name, showing surprising maturity. Takayanagi seems to have found an elegant and sophisticated balance between stillness and movement inherent in a space, between “gradual projection” and “mass projection”. An example of music in continuous evolution, of brilliant creativity.