Heap: Morning Machine and Soft Musume

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Before squeezing down its name to Morsof, this Japanese group was called Morning Machine and Soft Musume. The filiation it implies with Soft Machine is not that striking. Heap definitely belongs to the jazz-rock corpus, and leader Mikio Fukushima's soprano sax playing can recall at times Elton Dean's, but fans of the Canterbury variety of progressive jazz looking for another derivative group are in for something different. The group's core is formed of Fukushima, bassist Norivumi Uchida, and drummer Morihide Sawada. The rhythm section is fluid and well-versed in the art of fusion jazz (with Weather Report being probably a main influence on bassist and drummer alike). What mostly strikes is Fukushima's playing: his soprano sax is sharp like an electric guitar, his alto sax is dirty and mean. Guest musicians introduce guitar, keyboards, and trombone in different places on the album. The set begins with the two-minute anthem "cos theta," an angular theme defiantly stated and reminiscent of Henry Cow. The medium-paced "Underdog's Blues" following it fails to carry the same energy. "Heap Suite" picks up the slack and launches into a solid jazz-rock head, followed by inspired (if a little too playful) collective improvisation. There is nothing African-sounding about "Afro Zone," but the track delivers several good moments, including a trombone solo by Kenta Hamano (the trombone goes through reverb and delay effects, evoking Robert Wyatt's vocal interludes in Soft Machine's live performances of the early '70s). But the set's best piece is its last, "DADA": here Fukushima turns into a progressive rock version of Albert Ayler or Ivo Perelman, and the music often steps into ecstatic free jazz territory. The recording is a bit muffled, but the performance is definitely worthy of your time, although this album is more avant-garde than the regular output of the Musea label.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
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