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Emergency!: Live In Copenhagen

Mark Corroto By

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Surprisingly, drummer Yasuhiro Yoshigaki's band, Emergency!—formed in 2001—never performed outside of Japan until this 2006 date in Denmark. The quartet, also featuring guitarists Otomo Yoshihide and Ryoichi Saito, plus bassist Hiroaki Mizutani, covers the jazz compass in the same manner as 1990s Downtown bands Rootless Cosmopolitans and Junk Genius; that is, they sometimes reimagine standards by Duke Ellington, Burt Bacharach, and Lennon/McCartney in an entirely new dialect.

Fans of Otomo Yoshihide may be familiar with his reconfiguration of Eric Dolphy's classic recording, along with Yoshigaki, on Out To Lunch (Doubt Music, 2005), and their recent Trio+ covers of Ornette Coleman on Lonely Woman (Doubt Music, 2010) and Albert Ayler, with Bells (Doubt Music, 2010).

Here, they take on Louis Prima, Charles Mingus, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, alongside Yoshigaki's original, "Re-Baptizum." Unlike some Downtown artists, the group's rocked-out two-guitar/bass/drums jazz is presented without pretension. These are not artists posing for sake of irony. When they cover "Sing Sing Sing," thoughts of Benny Goodman are merely fleeting, as the track swings like Sid Vicious' cover of "My Way." Yoshigaki and Saito twist and curl notes around each other, with Yoshigaki dropping a barrage of beats. When they do allude to the melody, Mizutani's bass pulls the strings in a straight, old school tradition. Same for Mingus' "Fables For Faubus," where the slog of the opening gives way to call-and-response guitar trade off, and Yoshigaki is freed to mess with the pulse. Mingus would have loved the surf guitar additions, extra-heavy vamp, and rapid time changes. This melee slows a bit for Kirk's "The Inflated Tear," with its plaintive call. The saxophonist's horn is, however, replaced by extended guitar techniques, one player nursing some feedback while the other scrapes out bits of poetry. All quite brilliant.

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