Doug Yokoyama

Identifiable

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One of the instrumentals on Identifiable is titled "Albert Ayler Flying Through the Sky." That piece is Doug Yokoyama's way of acknowledging the contributions of the late Albert Ayler, who was among the most exciting free jazz players of the '60s. And yet, Identifiable doesn't sound like an Ayler album. Yokoyama, like Ayler, is part of jazz' avant-garde, but his saxophone playing is much closer to the AACM school of avant-garde improvisation: On Identifiable, Yokoyama favors a much calmer, more contemplative style of outside playing than one expects from Ayler, Charles Gayle or post-1965 John Coltrane. Identifiable isn't about getting in your face; it's about reflection. But then, Yokoyama is smart enough to realize that you don't have to emulate someone to admire his/her contributions; Yokoyama can acknowledge and admire Ayler even though Ayler was a different type of player. And that enlightened, open-minded outlook is one of the things that has kept the Asian-American jazz movement healthy. The movement has been about openness, not rigid rules and dogma -- and openness allows Yokoyama to enter different musical situations. Here, the alto and soprano saxophonist leads an all-Asian quartet that also includes Tatsu Aoki on upright bass, Francis Wong on soprano sax, and Jeff Chan on tenor sax. No piano, no drums -- just three saxophones and an acoustic bass -- and it's a combination that works enjoyably well on pensive, cerebral offerings like "Zoo's Blues" and "The Halloween Song." In 2003, Yokoyama came out with two albums simultaneously: this one and Thanks for Stopping By. And even though Thanks for Stopping By is the more essential of the two, Identifiable is still a solid, respectable offering from the flexible saxophonist.

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