Nobu Stowe: Beyond Free
AAJ: Do music and a research psychology background represent a yin-yang type of lifestyle for you?
NS: Not really. This is because the essence of both music and science is creativity. The foundation of science is logical deduction, but without creative insights or intuition, the logic will lead to "intellectual emptiness..." just like theoretical exercises in musicwhich is a logical procedure, leading to the same empty outcome without the melody; the intuitive elements of music.
AAJ: You are also a contributor of the Japanese jazz magazine, Jazz Tokyo. Tell us about this magazine, and your writing as a jazz journalist.
NS: Jazz Tokyo is the most prominent online publication in Japan. The magazine was founded by Kenny Inaoka to cover "Jazz and Beyond," especially to support independent labels around the world, that are publishing creative music, but not necessary with the financial resources to promote effectively.
Inaoka-san is the editor-in-chief, and is also a famous producer in Japanmostly known for his work as the house producer for Trio Records, which was a jazz label established by the audio maker Kenwood in the early '70s. But he also worked with other labels, including Why Not, ECM, and Sony. He produced many notable jazz musicians, including Al Haig, Elvin Jones, Don Cherry, Anita O'Day, Jack DeJohnette, Masahiko Togashi, Masabumi POO Kikuchi, and others. He even produced the soundtrack by Keith Jarrett for the video Nihon Sora Kara No Oudan (Japan from the Sky). This was a fully improvised duo performance by Keith and his son Gabriel on percussion.
In 2007, I started contributing for Jazz Tokyo per request by Inaoka-san, and have written CD reviews, and also conducted interviews with my idols, including Keith Jarrett, Michel Legrand, Gary Peacock, Paul Bley, Bill Frisell, Marilyn Crispell, and Chico Hamilton, among others.
AAJ: Please tell us about The ECM catalogue, just published in Japan.
NS: This is the first complete catalogue of ECM Records in the world. The editor is Kenny Inaoka who handled ECM distribution to Japan through Kenwood. I am honored to be one of the contributing authors. The catalogue includes all of the officially albums, plus promos, EP, LP, CD and DVDs released on ECM and its subsidiary JAPO label between 1969 and 2010. The album covers are all in color, with an individual album guide in Japanese. But all other information, such as titles, musicians, tracks, and album index, is in English. So the book should be valuable even to non-Japanese readers.
The catalogue was originally scheduled for the publication in 2009 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the German label, but the book was finally published on July 13th 2010 from Kirara Sha through Kawade Shobou, and costs 4,000 yen, which is approximately $45. I just heard negotiations are on the way so that local ECM distributors, such as ECM Munich or ECM USA, will handle the distribution of this catalogue as well.
AAJ: Future plans?
NS: I have several recordings ready to be released. One is a fully improvised recording from January 2009 with Lee Pembleton, Achille Succi, Alan Munshower, and Daniel Barbiero. Daniel is a bassist highly active in the vibrant improv scene of Washington DC. He is a sensitive player with sweet tone, and a good knowledge of contemporary classical music. I believe this recording is the most mature and well-balanced work of my inside/outside approach to fully improvised music, and hope it will be released soon. The album title will be L'Albero delle Meduse, which means, in Italian, Jelly Fish Tree, and there is a funny story behind it.
Another is a recording with Lee Pembleton, Ross Bonadonna and Jason Bivins. Jason is the associate professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at North Carolina State University. He writes about jazz for several publications, including Cadence, Paris Transatlantic, and Dusted Magazine, and is also an inventive guitarist in the tradition of Keith Rowe and Derek Bailey. The original idea for this recording was to create some sort of Jarrett-meets-AMM. Normally, I am opposed to post-production works, other than simple mixing, for fully improvised music. However, we have decided to carry more elaborate post-production works on this particular recording. The idea is to make the virtual soundtrack of "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath," the 1927 novella by H.P. Lovecraft. The music will be accompanied by a series of illustrations by Honyo Ohte, of course, inspired by the Lovecraft story.
In February of this year (2010), Achille Succi, Daniel Barbiero and myself participated in a recording session lead by Andrea Centazzo that also featured the wonderful trumpet player Dave Ballou. We played and improvised, based on scores by Andrea. Andrea is currently carrying the post-production, and so hopefully, this recording will be released shortly.
My current focus is a total improvisation trio with Achille Succi and drum legend Barry Altschul. Following the duo appearance at 2010 Sant'Anna Arresi Jazz Festival in Sardinia, Achille and I decided to form a working unit and we are totally thrilled to have Barry on board. The key word for this trio is versatility, and I am hoping to cover wide-ranging musical contexts unrestricted by the framework of fully improvised music. Achille and Barry are both capable of subtle lyricism and avant-aggression, concrete melodic playing and abstract sound exploration, with the strong sense of rhythm in groove and in free playing, and possess acute ears for tonality and atonality. They are most of all spontaneous, and that is very critical in any music, improvised or not. So Achille and Barry are the ideal partners for the all-inclusive methods of fully improvised music and total improvisation.
Nobu Stowe, Confusion Bleue (Soul Note, 2010)
Nobu Stowe, An Die Musik (Soul Note, 2008)
Nobu Stowe, Hommage An Klaus Kinski (Soul Note, 2007)
Nobu Stowe, The Soul In The Mist (Ictus, 2007)
Nobu Stowe, New York Moments (Konnex, 2007)
Nobu Stowe, Brooklyn Moments (Konnex, 2006)
Pages 1-3, 5, 7: Agostino Mela
Page 4: Katsuhiko Suto
Page 6: Courtesy of Nobu Stowe