Like your humble servant, Japanse post-guitarist Otomo Yohishide is a fan of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" composition, a song full of dark beauty, hope, sadness and resignation.
The Japanese artist is also known for taking his music to the extremes, as he does here, by giving us six versions of the tune - bringing my personal collection to one hundred and thirty covers - but also by pushing the listener to the limits of what is auditory tolerable.
Officially a release by the Otomo Yoshihide's New Jazz Trio (ONJT), the trio only plays on the two middle tracks, with one solo pieces on either side and book-ended by two quintet versions. The band is Otomo Yoshihide on electric guitar and broken acoustic guitar, Hiroaki Muzutani on bass and kalimba, Yasuhiro Yoshigaki on drums and percussion (the trio), with Sachiko M on sinewaves and Jim O'Rourke on EMS synthesizer (the quintet).
The six versions differ quite strongly in approach. The long first quintet piece is quite slow and exploratory ending in minute-long eardrum-piercing feedback that is almost unbearable to listen to. The quiet first acoustic solo piece is hence very welcome but not really breath-taking.
The first trio performance is excellent, with solid support, a raw sound, lots of feedback sustain, yet here it is more integrated in the melody. The second trio is equally good, with a long sensitive arco piece with percussive touches and calm acoustic guitar. The second solo piece is the opposite of the first one, again at times painful to the ears with the first stretched feedback tone lasting not less than one minute and fifteen seconds, yet luckily the tune develops with less exaggeration. The last track, by the quintet, is minimalist and full of electronics, dark and ominous, and good.
So, you can love it or you can hate it, and there are pieces to cherish here as there are ones to keep far away from. I don't think Yoshihide cares a jot either way. He is not a crowd-pleaser. He likes the music and explores its various possibilities of expression, creation and destruction.
Other musicians have also demonstrated their admiration for Ornette Coleman's composition : Stéphane Oliva, Marcin Oles, Trio X, Michael Bisio and Sophia Domancich lead the way. The almost complete list can be found here.
Watch Otomo Yoshihide play Lonely Woman with John Edwards, Eddie Prevost, Steve Beresford at Cafe Oto on 25 November 2008
And this snippet from a solo version is also memorable
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