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Francois Carrier: Japan Suite


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Francois Carrier: Japan Suite
Canadian alto saxophonist François Carrier frequently travels light. Even more so on this occasion as his regular peripatetic partner drummer Michel Lambert was not on board for a 2019 tour of Japan. This 78-minute album presents a first-time meeting with a group of Japanese improvisers, comprising bassist Daisuke Fuwa founder of the Shibusa Shirazu Orchestra, with a discography of 18 releases, fellow alto saxophonist Masayo Koketsu, also an alum of Fuwa's outfit, and drummer Takashi Itani, who has appeared alongside pianist Satoko Fujii notably on the splendid 1538 (Libra, 2018).

Over two sets of collectively-negotiated fare, inclined towards free jazz, it is fascinating to hear the interaction develop from getting-to-know-you exchanges into something more meaty. The contrasting alto styles are an immediate attention grabber. Carrier plays with a lyrical strand to his improvising, recalling Ornette Coleman at times in his insistent songlike phrases. Koketsu, on the other hand, trades in non-tempered squawks, quacks and stutters, evoking an atomized Evan Parker. Bass and drums hold things together, Fuwa especially laying down a melodic pizzicato, blending with Carrier in tonality, pattern and structure, while Itani is more unfettered, prone to spurts of timbral color and meter.

While that might sound somewhat schizophrenic, everyone is both respectful and skilled enough that it actually works quite well. Experienced in the genre, they effectively manage transitions, and avoid all but a few interludes of treading water, though even these tend to lead somewhere worthwhile. The twin altos in consort signal some of the best moments. One standout passage arrives towards the close of "Kacho-Fugetsu (Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon)," when Carrier explodes to transform a sequence of quiet muttering into a stratospheric squall. A similar episode also enlivens "Rakuyou (Falling Leaves)" as the altos braid over choppy pulsing bass and drums.

Fuwa introduces "Ogose" with a contemplative plucked solo, which encourages Carrier to join, in measured fashion, before he gradually builds to a frantic climax, with Itani's responsive dialogue evidencing a particular bond with the reedman. Koketsu's finest hour comes on "Yuzu (Citron)" where her unpredictable trajectory takes in whistles, squeals and multiphonic blasts, buoyed by Itani's irregular accents and crashes, until Carrier bursts in for some invigorating tandem screams. The concert ends as it began, in conversational mode, relatively restrained, but with the distance between them much diminished as Carrier embraces abstraction and skronk, while Koketsu mitigates her extremes with nods to consonance.

It is a satisfying date which speaks to the universality of improvised music.

Track Listing

1. Uchi-soto (Inside Outside) 25:01 2. Kacho-fugetsu(Flower, bird, wind, moon) 14:26 3. Rakuyou(Falling leaves) 15:35 4. Ogose(Town Ogose) 08:30 5. Yuzu(Citron) 11:15 6. Kaze To Kumo Ni Noboru(Climb the wind and clouds) 03:27


François Carrier
saxophone, alto
Masayo Koketsu
saxophone, alto
Daisuke Fuwa
bass, acoustic
Additional Instrumentation

François Carrier - alto saxophone Masayo Koketsu - alto saxophone Daisuke Fuwa - double-bass Takashi Itani - drums & percussion

Album information

Title: Japan Suite | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

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