Otomo Yoshihide

Otomo Yoshihide's New Jazz Orchestra

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With his New Jazz Orchestra (or NJO), Otomo Yoshihide continued to work this peculiar side vein of what most fans would likely consider to be his main work in improvisatory turntables and electronics, though one might guess that this project was a bit more financially remunerative. This was his fifth venture with his jazz band after two releases each on Tzadik and DIW, but here he expands the group to include as many as 15 musicians, several from the European free improv scene, and one well known to pop culture in Japan. Trumpeter Axel Dorner, reed player Alfred Harth (apparently having dropped his old "middle name," 23), Mats Gustafsson on baritone, and pianist Cor Fuhler all drop in as well as, intriguingly, "Lolitapop" icon Kahimi Karie, who co-authors two tunes. The disc includes several covers and begins with one Yoshihide had recorded before, Jim O'Rourke's "Eureka." As is his habit with this band, Yoshihide mixes relatively straight readings of a piece's theme with all manner of sonic detritus both electronic and acoustic. Here, the ultra-soft and sexy voice of Karie whispers out lyrics in French, at first delicately accompanied by Yoshihide's guitar, later inundated by waves of winds and Sachiko M's sine waves as the song explodes into chaos. Vinyl scratches lead into the beguilingly awkward reading of Yoshihide's lovely theme from the film, Canary, sounding like an ancient recording rescued from an ancient, weathered repository. On this cut, the mix of old and new, melody and noise, is most perfectly achieved. When Dorner's gorgeous trumpet leads the theme out of the static and fog, it's a sublime moment. The remainder of the album, unfortunately, never quite reaches the heights of the opening tracks. On the covers of Ornette Coleman's "Broken Shadows" and Mingus' "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress Then Blue Silk," the slippage between theme and noise begins to take on a tinge of the routine, falling on the wrong side of the line between poetic dream-logic and rote. While the playing is never less than excellent, something in the conception has been lost. "Lost in the Rain," co-written by Karie and Yoshihide, has something of a sultry character and its noirish mood is effectively enhanced by some electronic effluvia, but there's a bit more craft than inspiration at work. Still, it's an enjoyable recording and, if things haven't progressed as far as one might have hoped since Flutter -- Yoshihide's initial gambit in this zone -- and if he never quite reaches the profundity of his ensembles like I.S.O., it's still worth hearing and who knows? It may draw the odd jazz fan into exploring Yoshihide's vast soundworld.

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