Surprisingly, Iruman is saxophonist Akira Sakata's first piano duo recording in his forty-plus year career. The question this disc raises is not why did it take him so long to record in this format, but could another duo performance eclipse this one?
Sakata has been flag bearer of the Japanese free jazz movement since the 1970s. Recording first with pianist Yosuke Yamashita, then he was 'discovered' by bassist Bill Laswell and he went on to record with Material, Last Exit, Mooko, Peter Kowald. He has been featured with DJ Krush and become a favorite of guitarist Jim O'Rourke and drummer Chris Corsano. Their recordings And That's The Story Of Jazz... (Family Vineyard, 2011) and Live At Hungry Brain (Family Vineyard, 2011) with Devin Gray are minor masterpieces.
The studio recording between Sakata and Italian pianist Giovanni Di Domenico self taught until age 24, yields ten improvised passages that mix concepts of Eastern and Western music and free jazz as if the pair were presenting musical koans. Iruman opens with fragile and subtle piano and the ringing of bells as wind chimes. "Yellow Sand Blowing" mixes the skittering jerky alto of Sakata dancing over the raindrops of piano notes. Giovanni Di Domenico has the inclination to play notes that rely either on their immediacy or linger as memories of sound or, perhaps emotion. He plays with an outsider artist's take on classical music. The pair mix some thunderous piano against chanting on "Yamadera Ni Kikoyuru Koe/Voice from a Temple in the Deep Mountain" and dancing notes against the vocalization with "Papiruma." The music is in constant reinvention. The chamber jazz of "Tanbo Ni Mizu Ga Hairu/Water Coming Into Rice Field in the Spring" is juxtaposed against "Moe II/Bud II" an aggressive back-and-forth scuffle of notes that ultimately finds compromise in the pair's cooperation.
Track Listing: Seijaku No Ichimai/A Piece of Silence; Kousa No Odori/Yellow Sand Blowing from China;
Suiren No Saku Huruike/Lotus Blossom in an Old Pond; Yamadera Ni Kikoyuru Koe/Voice from
a Temple in the Deep Mountain; Moe I’/ud I; Tanbo Ni Mizu Ga Hairu/Water Coming Into Rice
Field in the Spring; Sukiyazukuri No Tatazumai/The Peaceful Atmosphere of a Wood Sukiya-
style Temple; Hachi To Ohisama/The Bee and the Sunshine; Papiruma; Moe II/Bud II.
Personnel: Akira Sakata: alto sax, clarinet, voice, bells and shakers; Giovanni Di Domenico: piano.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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