Kaoru Abe

1971

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1971 (its Japanese title translates to "As Acacia Rain Stops") consists of three live duets between Kaoru Abe and percussionist Yas-Kas Sato, though it's clear that Abe is the driving force. The opening track might throw some listeners for a loop, those who only know this reed player's wilder, screaming side. Abe is on bass clarinet here and for much of the piece revels in moody ruminations in the instrument's lower register, summoning an extremely rich tone and evincing a lyrical sense that easily gets lost in his more extreme improvisations. It's a dark, lovely performance, worth the purchase price of the disc by itself. The remaining two pieces find Abe in the territory he was most known for: raging, full-bore, non-stop assaults on his alto, rarely pausing for breath, trusting in his stamina to provide inspiration. Though there's certainly some influence via Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell's prior work in solo and duo context, Abe, with his relative lack of blues derivations, sounds closer to the free European school as championed by players such as Peter Brötzmann. But there's nothing really overt influence-wise; Abe sounds very much himself. If he oversteps on occasion, as on the rather unfortunate harmonica interlude in the second piece, one is apt to easily forgive, realizing that some experiments simply don't work. The third piece shows tinges of Ayler, another musician often cited as influential on Abe, and has more interactivity on the part of drummer Sato. If anything, one hears echoes of John Handy's Monterey performance, oddly enough. Between the three improvisations, the listener has been given a reasonable approximation of Abe's range. That and the generally excellent caliber of the music make this release (though perhaps difficult to find outside of Japan) an excellent entry point into the world of a fascinating musician who left much too soon.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
19:48
2
27:50
3
22:46
blue highlight denotes track pick