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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Emergency! - Live in Copenhagen (2010, JVTlandT) ****½

By Paul Acquaro

Japan's Emergency! is a powerful jazz quartet whose dual guitar attack of Otomo Yoshihide and Ryoichi Saito is irreverent and irresistible. Rounding out the group is double bassist Hiroaki Mizutani and drummer Yasuhiro Yoshigaki. Apparently the group does not play outside of Japan all that often, which makes "Live in Copenhagen" on JVTlanDT even more of a treat for purveyors of cathartic rock inspired jazz.

The opening song, "Re-Baptizum", slowly unfolds from a seemingly unscripted start while the electric guitars pierce and puncture the undulating rhythmic ground work. When the drums pick up with a uptempo beat, the guitars push and prod each other deeper into the distorted landscape. Sonic images of deep fissures, burnt hills, twisted charred remains, and the grotesque beauty of smoldering ruins follow.

The start of "Sing Sing Sing" channels Powertools era Bill Frisell with its simple lines cloaked in feedback and dissonances. The melody is rendered faithfully and then it all slips into slashing and burning. After a liberating improv, the quartet brings back the melody, and by the end of this quarter hour conflagration, lands us on the head, to the appreciative applause of the audience. Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" is also freely interpreted. The original brooding bass melody breaks out into more experimental excursions, while the guitars play off each other, crashing chords and weaving around the instantly recognizable melody. Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "The Inflated Tear" closes out the album. It begins with the edgily played melancholic melody and slowly devolves into a long feedback laden free-improv soundscape. Eventually the group jumps back into the melody line, but that too rapidly decomposes into a manic noise jam.

This album, with its three of its four extended pieces covers, keeps the spirit of the original tunes but brings to them an updated sonic palette. There are moments reminiscent of Jerry Granelli's UFB, moments when I think of Joachim Kuhn's Let's Be Generous and moments when I find it's best not to think at all. The energy emitting from Emergency! is invigorating, original and spirited.

Listen/download from eMusic.