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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 love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.