Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Akira Sataka - Proton Pump (Family Vineyard, 2018)

Alto saxophonist Akira Sakata is one of the most famous members of the Japanese free jazz scene, with a unique scouring tone and an unfettered and exciting approach to the music. On this album he adds clarinet, vocals and percussion to his repertoire in the company of Masahiko Satoh on piano, Chris Corsano on drums and Darin Gray upright bass and percussion. This album was recorded live at the Pit Inn, Tokyo in October 2015 and opens with with the title track, the roaring “Proton Pump” which shines a light on Sakata's raw and righteous saxophone playing. The band falls in behind him, hurrying to keep pace and developing a wide open rhythmic approach. There is a top notch collective improvisation, with Corsano's rolling and clattering drums matching up with Gray's stoic bass and the unpredictable piano playing of Satoh. The music moves forward at a burning clip, ratcheting up to a very exciting level of volume as Sakata digs in deep and soars against the powerful backdrop, before laying out for a sparkling area for the rhythm section to explore. Satoh is featured and he has a very interesting approach to the instrument, reminiscent of Cecil Taylor. Sakata returns with a stark and yearning solo to minimal accompaniment, with the band coming together for a bracing race to the crashing and cunning finish. "Bullet Apoptosis" follows with Sakata swirling on clarinet, probing and looking for an opening. The music is open and breathable, with taut bass playing meeting crisp drumming and punchy piano chords to create a balanced atmosphere. I'm not really familiar with Sakata's clarinet playing, but he just owns it, leaping gymnastically around the soundstage as bright piano and raucous drumming give chase. after a breather he cruises back in with neon toned clarinet swooping and swaying joyously through the relentless thicket of sound making for a nearly overpowering full band improvisation. "Chemiosmotic Coupling of Acorn" has spacious bowed bass and Sakata's vocalizing - this is something of an acquitted taste, but he's all in and clearly feeling it as he bellows and cries over subtle bass and percussion. The piano glides in as the volume gradually increases with close interplay, and Sakata scats with bravado and the music flows forth effortlessly. He returns to saxophone in duet with his old compatriot Satoh, before the bass and drums roar in and take the music to another level of thrilling all out free jazz collective improvisation, this is just mind melting stuff on par with any Brotzmann or Vandermark unit. The concluding track "Voyage of the Eukaryote" is a spacious clarinet, bass and percussion track, with the sound slowly building around Skakta's quicksilver playing. They create a fast paced and interesting improvisation that is the perfect conclusion to a stellar album that all open eared music fans should keep an eye out for. Proton Pump -

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