Terumasa Hino/Masabumi Kikuchi Edges Sony Japan 2008
Terumasa Hino/Masabumi Kikuchi Quintet Counter Current Sony Japan 2008
The similarities between two new releases by Japanese legends Terumasa Hino and Masabumi Kikuchi are obvious. Both were recorded within the same two weeks at the same studio. Both share broadly painted abstract covers on their appealing LP-style gatefold sleeves. Both are mostly originals by the pair, including two versions of two pieces book ending each disc. Even the aesthetics, despite the first being a duet and the other a quintet, have something in common. Palpably companion pieces, for all their similarities, these are distinct albums. But one thing they both contain is possibly the most surprising. Though continuing a partnership begun decades ago, the albums don't demonstrate an expected easy comfort; that is their strength.
Edges is an uncommon duet between an unusual pairing. Piano and trumpet inhabit a similar tonal range so any counterpoint is of a subtler breed. The eight pieces, including the two takes of the title track that begin and end the album, are aural representations of the album artwork: painted in bold expressionistic strokes. What is fascinating though is the tangible sense of tension. When one listens to a duet, breezy dialogue or spirited agreements are usually the expectation. Hino and Kikuchi are obviously old friends but ones who seem to have little in common. When their careers began, they were closer in spirit; the intervening years have separated them. They are like adults who are friends because they grew up next to each other. This turns Edges into a session whose appeal is in its agitation. Each author has his pieces dominated by the other musician and the solo pieces are almost exhalations. "I Fall In Love Too Easily," the album's only standard, exemplifies this ironic relationship.
Counter Current brings the pair together with a multi-generational trio to explore another set of originals, this time almost exclusively by Kikuchi. The effect is that of strangers on a long train ride trying to find out what they have in common but amiably engaging in disagreements along the way. Hino is more muted, allowing more room for the cultured musings of Michael Attias' alto (who also contributes one piece). And Kikuchi forms part of a remarkably porous rhythm section, Thomas Morgan's Charlie Haden-esque bass gently overlaying Paul Motian's drums, like a bullfrog jumping languidly from lily pad to lily pad on a still pond. Though the instrumentation is typically modern, the feeling is not overly cerebral. Counter Current, like Edges, is an apt name for this beguiling document.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Edges (ver. 1); Is It?; Alone, Alone And Alone; Can't Describe; I Fall In Love Too Easily; Dad, I Miss You (trumpet solo); My Kinda Yesterday (piano solo); Edges (ver. 2).