Kaoru Abe

Solo 1972, 1.21

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A live, solo performance from early 1972, this disc captures all the passion and frenzy of this major, tragic figure of the Japanese jazz avant-garde. The sparse handclaps from the audience give some indication of how little appreciated he was during his brief life (he died of an overdose in 1978), but the music created stands up quite well against contemporaneous experimentation among the American and European vanguard. Although often compared to Albert Ayler and Anthony Braxton, he lacks the former's supersaturated blues sense and the latter's hyper-intellectual investigative desire. Instead, he combines some of the same bitterness, ferocity, and even lyricism of players like Peter Brötzmann. Each improvisation is like a headlong leap into the flames, all caution cast aside, all considerations channeled into the expression of the moment. Almost necessarily, this creates music of varying quality, cohering in thrilling fashion at some points, unraveling into a chaotic blur at others, but that's part of the fascination for the listener. The second track here (which might be an interpretation of Mal Waldron's "Left Alone") is brilliant, a non-stop scream of inspiration that briefly pauses for a second or two of melody here and there before charging off with utter abandon into the stratosphere. Abe switches to bass clarinet on the third cut and, as was typical when he used that instrument, reveals a more ruminative character, laboring over dark kernels of melody with the occasional vault into the upper register. The closing piece is a bit more fluid (and a little nearer to early Braxton), but similarly, obsessively intense. This is a strong disc from an explosive talent. Recommended.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
8:31
2
12:51
3
18:28
4
10:52
blue highlight denotes track pick