Takayanagi Masayuki in solo, Lonely Woman and other stories on #neuguitars #blog #TakayanagiMasayuki
“Some say his greatest work was 1970’s MASS PROJECTION, others cite 1972’s FREE FORM SUITE, or even 1982’s LONELY WOMAN, while my mind’s just a blur from the sonic soup that Jojo tips over my melted plastic brain every time I whip his records out. His guitar-playing rings the turkey necks of every other free-guitar wailer I’ve listened to, and his most obliterated music exerts such G-force that it’s difficult to stay awake in the presence of his records “
So wrote in 2007, the musical druid Julian Cope in his “Japrocksampler How the post-war Japanese blew their minds on Rock’n’roll”, an ideal sequel to that 1995 “Krautrocksampler” that had made many of us fall in love with the German visionary rock. Attentive and diligent listener, amphetamine and emotional writer, Cope has made his fundamental contribution to my personal discovery of Takayanagi Masayuki. “Lonely Woman” was his first CD that I got by searching on the internet, and it was what sparked my interest in this complex, difficult and fascinating musician.
We are in 1982 and in a very concentrated period of time that goes from August 21st to December 21st, Takayanagi decided to record three albums, highly iconic and representative of his guitar style: “Lonely Woman”, “Lonely Woman Live” and “Solo” . These albums are unique cases in his history as an improviser: only here, in fact, we can listen to him playing solo and they are all concentrated in a very short time span, a few months in which something must have snapped in Takayangi’s mind, pushing him to recording these three lonely and intimate albums, focusing on a handful of songs, almost standards, which are revisited each time in a different way. Improvisers are, as a rule, musically gregarious, preferring to work with other musicians in the most varied combinations, the great Derek Bailey pointed out in his book “Improvisation, His Nature and Practice in Music” and Takayanagi was no exception. Takayanagi has played with everyone, ranging from duo to numerous big bands. For most people the idea of improvisation, despite being a vehicle for self-expression, is linked to that of playing with someone else, and I think some of the greatest possibilities that improvisation allows lies in the exploration of relationships between musicians. From this point of view, solo improvisation would make no sense at all, Bailey pointed out. However, even Takayanagi, at a certain point, felt the need to investigate this possibility of playing and he did it in a different, almost conventional way, compared to the choices made by other champions of free improvisation. In these three albums Takayanagi seems to have wanted to resort to more conventional forms, returning, in a certain sense, to his personal training as a be-bop guitarist, reinterpreting four songs in an exploratory and almost obsessive way: “Lonely Woman” by Ornette Coleman , “Katy’s Trance” by Lee Konitz, “Song for Che” by Charlie Haden and “Lennie’s Pennies” by Lennie Tristano, combining them with other personal compositions. Why this choice? Did he want to know if the language he used was complete? If he could provide him with everything he wanted, in a musical performance? Or maybe he wanted to retrace his steps, re-reading and reinvigorating his musical background?
The analogy with language, often used by improvising musicians when discussing their work, has some use to illustrate that construction of a common stock of materials (a real vocabulary) that takes place when a group of musicians improvise together on a regular basis. When an improvisation group works well, the bulk of the group’s material will initially be provided by the styles, techniques and habits of the musicians that compose it, which is why every change in the line-up involves both the adoption of new forms and the entry of new styles. This vocabulary will then be developed individually, in work and research outside the group, and collectively in concert. Takayanagi also appears to have opted for a similar form of learning. In choosing and developing his material as a regular improviser, Takayanagi seems to work in ways similar to those of the group improviser: building a personal vocabulary, and working to expand it, both in performances and in rehearsals. In these three albums he seems to have decided to resort to a known material, whose historical or systematic associations could be ignored and / or deconstructed. Maybe he was looking for material that was suitable for his improvisational forms and that could also facilitate them. Bailey wrote that the most obvious differences from group improvisation (greater cohesion and easier control by the soloist) are not necessarily an advantage in individual improvisation and how a further disadvantage is given by the loss of that element of unpredictability generally. provided by other musicians. An expert musician like Takayangi was certainly aware of these limits: in this situation the language acquires much greater importance and there are moments, in solo improvisation, in which the musician will find himself fully relying on the language he uses. In those moments, when the most aesthetically acceptable resources, such as imagination and inventiveness, seem to disappear, the vocabulary becomes the only means of support, supporting the continuity and thrust of a musical performance.
In this sense Takayanagi seems to have managed to avoid one of the worst traps that seems to arise in “solo” improvisation: he was able to resist the easy temptation to resort to proven and certain procedures, to give life to those parts of the performance that are the most pleasing to the public. In fact, in solo improvisation, as in much of live music, a positive response from the audience can cause the repeated extraction of rites and formulas that have long since lost any musical interest. At this point the credibility of the activity lies in the balance and its maintenance depends only on the courage of the musician: every time playing “solo” drops to the level of recycling the formulas that have been successful in the past, its importance for the improvisation becomes very minimal. Takayanagi knew this well, each album sounds different, both in terms of the musical construction and in terms of the sound used. Perhaps this too is one of the possible interpretations of these three albums: once a vocabulary of some homogeneity has been assembled, and it has been proven that that vocabulary works in live situations, it can be added to it at least for a certain period. period, material from any source. And this is a necessity, because the need for material is continuous. A feeling of freshness is essential, and the best way to achieve this is to continually renew a part of the material. In a sense, Takayanagi wanted to seek change as an end in itself. A change that has as its goal the benefits that the change itself can bring. What is ultimately revealed by trying to analyze one’s playing in this way are, among other things, the limits of analogy with language or vocabulary. Takayanagi’s style is, in fact, something immediately recognizable: a grumpy and radically individualistic vocabulary made up of chromatic dissonances, thorny interjections, rhythmic discontinuities, changing chord changes enriched by improbable and fragile harmonies. From this point of view Takayanagi is closer, musically, to a semiologist and if his guitar was a sort of laboratory to develop extensive techniques aimed at redefining and de-constructing the instrument, his way of playing. it stood out from the others in that it seemed to aim at the deconstruction of hitherto familiar playing styles, particularly the be-bop aesthetic. Paradoxically Takayanagi has perhaps found in solo improvisation the best basis to face and renew group improvisation: not having group loyalty to betray and having his music in solitude as a last resort. As a solo improviser Takayanagi has shown that he can play with other musicians as often as he likes, whatever their opinion, without having to make a permanent commitment to any style or aesthetic. I think this is the ideal situation for the improviser. Takayanagi’s aesthetic represented an extreme case of the autonomy inclination of improvised music. It moved and changed before his style could be consolidated into a convention, into a definite form. A true master of semantics and style.