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Friday, April 26, 2019

Evan Parker, Toshi Tsuchitori, William Parker ‎– The Flow Of Spirit (Live Concert Tokyo) (Ryuko Gakusha, 2018) *****

By Katherine Whatley

It’s not often as a young jazz fan that I get to say: “I was there!” for some famous jazz concert. More often than not, my jazz elders tell me about concerts where at least one of the players has now passed away. But now I have an entry to put on my “proud to have been there list.” July 22, 2015—Evan Parker, William Parker and Toshi Tsuchitoru.

The venue was historic—Sogetsu Hall. Sogetsu was founded by Sofu Teshigahara in 1927 and the organization established the tradition of flower arranging as a method of self-expression and a creative art. Starting in 1959, the Sogetsu Arts Center hosted avant-garde and experimental music, film and art events. John Cage performed there in 1962, as did many other famous (and infamous) Japanese and Western musicians. To perform at Sogetsu Hall, to see a concert there, is to be part of the lineage of Japan’s post-war avant-garde. And these three musicians lived up to it.

Outside of Japan, percussionist Toshi Tsuchitori might be best known for his long-time collaborative relationship with theatre director Peter Brook. He also has immediate free jazz credibility thanks to the fact that he moved to New York in the 70’s to study with Milford Graves. The two have continued to play together on and off since then. Within Japan, while Tsuchitori is of course known for his free jazz roots, he has come to become just as well known for his later work focused on folk music in Japan and across the world, and with the many collaborations he did with his late wife, shamisen player Momoyama Harue. This record shows that Tsuchitori can marry both of these sides of his musical abilities. In his solo at the start of “Improvisation 2,” you can feel both his free jazz training and his focus on music from the non-western traditions. The few minutes when Tsuchitori is playing and then Evan Parker joins in might be the best on the album.

There was one wonderful year that between New York and Tokyo I saw Evan Parker perform some five or so times. From concert halls to apartment buildings to dingy basement clubs. He’s always a powerhouse, and his music has been described constantly by critics, none of whom do him justice. So, I won’t try here. All I will say is that on this evening he was better than any other time I have seen him.

William Parker is an old-school loft jazz scene bass player with the strength needed to stand along side the other two. I’m sure he doesn't need any introduction here. His playing is always dynamic and his presence open to the world. There are times on this record where his playing feels like it’s straight out of a loft in SoHo in 1975. Then in the next minute he’s pushing the music forward in a totally new way, like I rarely hear him play. His solo in the middle of “Improvisation 1,” with some accompaniment is an incredibly enjoyable conversation between Tsuchitori and William Parker.

I remember the night as something special. Three free jazz giants on stage together. For the first time, I felt that special feeling one gets at a really good free jazz concert. A sense of transcendence in the face of that textured wall of sound. I remember feeling as if everyone in the audience was totally focused, and on the same wavelength. But that was almost four years ago, and though I was excited to listen to that wonderful concert as an album, I was worried my taste four years ago wouldn’t live up to my expectations now. But the music stands the test of time, and the test of my memory. These three on that night felt totally in sync, with each other, the audience, the hall and some bigger. It’s old school free jazz at its finest, without staleness. The music is just as new, and just as free as I remember it.


Joe Feucht said...

Toshi Tsuchitori is one of the masters of free jazz drumming. Listen to his solo LPs "ajagara" and "Drumythm". It is good to have him back in the improvisers scene.

Anonymous said...

Any suggestions on how one might hear this recording?

Nick Metzger said...

Try the distributor, ALM Records. Here's the process for overseas (non-Japan) orders:

Nick Metzger said...

Catalogue number is RG16