It's no coincidence that some of the more daring art galleries enjoy hosting avant-garde jazz concerts, for abstract music and abstract art have a way of going together. Tatsu Aoki united the two on May 30, 1998, when he gave a solo-bass performance at the Art Institute of Chicago and was joined by Asian-born artist Amy Lee Segami -- a Windy City resident whose specialty is a painting-on-water technique known as suminagashi. While Aoki played, Segami provided a visual element for an audience of about 300. The aural part of Aoki's Art Institute concert is documented on this CD, which finds him playing unaccompanied most of the time. Only on two pieces, "Fisherman's Song" and the opener "Wed Lock," does Aoki employ other musicians -- John Sagami is heard on Japanese taiko drums, while Paul Kim embraces the buk (a traditional Korean instrument). Aoki's AACM-minded inside/outside performance (more outside than inside) is quite rewarding, and the improviser brings a lot of interesting ideas to the table whether he's plucking his bass or using a bow. The set's biggest surprise comes when Aoki plays the Japanese pop favorite "Sukiyaki," which was a major hit for singer Kyu Sakamoto in 1963 and became a major R&B/pop hit when A Taste of Honey provided an English-language version in 1980. In Aoki's creative hands, "Sukiyaki" works surprisingly well as avant-garde jazz. Basser Live is among the many CDs that Aoki can be proud of.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson