Aki Takase: Thema Prima

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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Where does one go after having studied the most important composers in jazz history and dedicated entire albums to them in a 40-year career? The answer lies somewhere between nowhere and everywhere, according to what Japanese pianist / composer Aki Takase presents with her new energetic project JAPANIC on Thema Prima. Whilst the aesthetic and energy at hand are steeped in the tradition of late greats, Takase welcomes chaos into her world and, with some help of modern electronic manipulations, creates a whirlwind of free improvisation that threatens to spiral out of control. But there's no mistaking tail-spinning for freedom, for this group is well in control of the wheel throughout.

If the rapidly sprinting piano runs clashing with string samples and saxophone moans on opening composition "Traffic Jam" sound like a storm, then the subsequent title track may as well be considered the fast-forward version of the same. The band—made up of Takase on keys, Daniel Erdmann on saxophone, DJ Sonny James- Illvibe Collective handling the turntables, with bassist Johannes Fink and drummer Dag Magnus Narvesen filling out the rhythm section—is fluent in whatever language any member spontaneously chooses to speak at will and together create a field of impulses that appears based on action and reaction.

This time around Takase found her main inspiration in composer Conlon Nancarrow and his studies for player piano. Small elements of pre-composed material reflect this influence and tie together the wild improvisations that tend to overwhelm like rushes of blood to the head. The piano tone is robust as Takase's fingers crash into the keys, while her patterns are dominated by large dissonant intervals.

Some measures, such as presented on "Wüstenschiff" or "Madam Bum Bum," show an ensemble that embraces melody and harmony in a more immediate way, all the while letting the listener know that not all should be taken too seriously. Just to make sure though, "Monday in Budapest" and "Berlin Express" keep things humorously upset and demonstrate collective improvisations that are as impressive as they are drole. Deeply satisfying and engaging music.

Track Listing

Traffic Jam; Thema Prima; A Goldfish in Space; Mannen i tårnet; Wüstenschiff; Hello Welcome; Monday in Budapest; Les Constructeurs; Berlin Express; Madam Bum Bum.


Aki Takase: piano; DJ Illvibe: turntables, electronics; Johannes Fink: double bass; Daniel Erdmann: tenor saxophone; Dag Magnus Narvesen: drums.

Album information

Title: Thema Prima | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Budapest Music Center Records


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