Easy Listening

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The album title is ironic, but not in the way one might expect. It's easy to imagine that an album called Easy Listening on free jazz explorer John Zorn's notoriously eclectic Tzadik label, made by a Japanese experimental trio no less, would consist of harsh noise and maddening dynamic shifts. The double bluff of this trio is that although sometimes creepily unsettling, Easy Listening is indeed a remarkably sedate album. The main instruments are piano, bass, and soprano saxophone, with the piano mostly functioning as the percussive base over which the bass and reeds can solo. Also, bassist Inada Makoto sings on three tracks, his heavily processed voice distorted as if it's playing through a megaphone or effects pedal. (It's oddly like a Japanese free jazz version of the Strokes' Julian Casablancas, who prefers a similarly processed vocal sound.) This is fairly challenging music, to be sure, but what's remarkable about Easy Listening is how simple and placid the songs are; even the near-atonal "Sound Check," where all three instruments just kind of plunk along on top of each other, has a stillness at its core.

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