Japanese free jazz trumpet veteran offers us an incredible treat. His first (?) solo album presented with excellent sound quality. And the latter is needed because Oki's tone and subtleties require the nuance of a good sound system. We have reviewed his albums before, and can definitely recommend his collaboration with Nuts, "Symphony for Old And New Dimensions" and "L'Atelier Tampon Ramier", his duo performance with Benjamin Duboc, "Nobusiko", and his recently reviewed collaboration with Abdelhai Bennani, "New Today, New Everyday".
Oki's trumpet playing is warm, playful and very controlled despite the free form in which he plays. As usual I put the album in the player and then listen to it, without reading onesheets or liner notes, abstractedly often, to get familiar with the overall sound before diving deeper into it, and also on that level the album sounds like a great companion, offering a fresh breeze in the background, but then I got warned by some really jazzy inflections in his playing, and after a while I suddenly recognised Monk's "Misterioso" shining through his free form. I checked the song list now and I noticed that I had missed, or failed to recognise two other standards, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "I Wish I Knew".
Don Cherry once said that in the early days free jazz musicians would play known tunes, but hide the melody in the piece as a challenge to the audience to try to identify what the band was playing. Maybe that's what Oki does here, or maybe not. Maybe he's just giving these old tunes their freedom back, like birds that you let out of a cage, in the hope that they get their natural singing back, and that's actually how it sounds, a release of beauty, a simplification of music to its poetic essence.
In between other standards, such as "You Are Too Beautiful" and "'Round Midnight", Itaru Oki offers his own compositions/improvisations, fresh, some of them quite avant-garde, using extended techniques, but at times quite accessible, in "Suminagashi" he plays a duet with himself, on "Shimokita Blues", he transforms the standard blues into something new.
One of the most beautiful solo trumpet albums I've heard in a while.