JAPAN CIRCUM-LIBRA RECORDS 202 CD (2013)
Kaze seem to me to be the Keystone Kops of jazz/improv. This album could be called avant-garde jazz for people who don’t like avant-garde jazz performed by over ambitious, over privileged, overly technical, overly clever musos; overall it is jazz that, to its credit, is aware of the existence of Otomo Yoshihide, but misguidedly and egotistically thinks it’s much better than him. Perhaps they think it’s easy.
The group, Christian Pruvost on trumpet, Natsuki Tamura also on trumpet, Satoko Fujii on piano and Peter Orins on drums, could be likened to a bunch of sprinters who, having entered a marathon, are desperately killing themselves trying to get to the finish line first. My wife agreed; “what a sad big band – like Bournemouth on a rainy Tuesday evening” she remarked over one evening’s carbonara. Final track, “Triangle” (oh dear, Bournemouth Triangle?), is particularly apt – nearly twenty whole minutes of abject humiliation in syncopated form. The musicians don’t even have the presence of mind to not resolve the piece in as trite a way as they can muster.
It is anaemic 21st-century bebop; clusters stolen from early Coltrane, Miles and Bird – track two, “Mechanique” (automated musicians, going through the motions), still thinks it’s 1958. The title track employs drum patterns which are nothing but a series of desperate empty gestures until some primal electronics make promises they can’t keep at 3:30, which in fairness did made me sit up and take notice, but then the following track, “Imokidesu”, is overblown, over indulgent and at around the five minute point the horns are playing an upward progression while the drummer comes over all unnecessary. And as for the pianist – playing with your fists is not big or clever, and it’s not always “avant-garde” either. In this case it’s just plain silly.
A word about the label(s): from the Libra Records website comes this: “Libra Records is an artist-owned record label founded in 1997 by pianist/composer Satoko Fujii and trumpeter/composer Natsuki Tamura. With 27 CDs so far, from solo, duo, trio and quartet to big band and orchestra formats, Libra is dedicated to the near limitless musical and creative vision of these two highly prolific and creative cutting-edge artists.” Sorry, cutting-edge how, exactly? And then, inexplicably; “…CDs feature beautiful original artwork on environmentally friendly paper covers.” It could be argued that whether you house your CDs in plastic or paper cases is irrelevant considering the amount of extra electricity we are all chewing through each year with all our electronic devices. Why don’t you think about how electricity is generated in the first place, before you sit there being so smug. What’s that? Plastic CD covers don’t biodegrade when you throw them away? You mean you want me to throw away your CDs??? Am I alone in thinking that all physical media – not just vinyl – is intended to be circulated from owner to owner and not just binned when you get bored of it. Oh dear, I’m back on to the BBC Radio 1’s concept of “indie-landfill” again, watch out. If you are interested, Kaze have released in conjunction with these two labels before their Rafale from 2011. Part of the reason for the current crisis/malaise in the jazz world is the aping of past styles instead of trying to push the form forward. It just don’t work. And unfortunately neither does this album in my view.
Heavily funded cultural experiments with throwing half-baked ideas at the “experimental” wall of commerce to see what will stick is not everyone’s favourite biscuit perhaps.