Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Sakata/Yermenoglou/Di Domenico/Damianidis - Hōryū​-​Ji (El Negocito Records, 2019) ****½

There aren’t many things happening right now that connect the international free jazz and improvisational scene with Greece. So, it is a joy to review this album recorded a year back in Thessaloniki at Duende Jazz club. We haven’t witnessed that much of Akira Sakata’s art in this part of the world. Even though he has been spreading fire music combined with ritualistic traditions of his birthplace for about 5 decades.

On this recording he teams up with two great Greek improvisers, Christos Yermenoglou (drums, percussion) and Giotis Damianidis (electric guitar). Along with the constantly in top form pianist Giovanni Di Domenico they create a Coltrane-ish affair, celebrating free thinking music of love, peace and solace. This is a vinyl and download only release, and the LP is comprised of two long improvisations clocking at fifty minutes.

Sakata’s presence always marks a recording as a must have for me. I’ve many times caught myself listening to him intensely. Pure joy comes out of his passionate reeds, the way he integrates vocalizations, screams, growls within his playing while in no way he is saturating his partners. Sakata’s rituals bare a collective symbolism of catharsis akin to the long tradition of Japan’s music.
But he is not alone in all this. The two long improvisations provide enough room and space for their collective playing. Being a fan of Yermenoglou, I always enjoy his easiness to integrate, act and react upon the challenges the others put on him. Here my minimal technical knowledge sees him as a duo with the piano of Di Domenico. The team up seemingly playing in close proximity.Even though there is no double-bass, this recording suffers not from the lack of rhythm. Di Domenico’s chameleonic playing provides additional rhythms, while in other cases is the melodic conjuction with the others. He can play so free in a late period Coltrane way and a few minutes later he seems so disciplined in order to balance the fierce attack of Damianidis electric guitar.

At first the guitar, the way it sounded and how it reacted with the others puzzled me. It certainly has a more rockish timbre, it’s even psychedelic someone could comment. It’s definitely not the “typical” electric guitar of improvisational recordings. At some points Damianidi’s guitar freaks out and goes its own way defying any expectations of the listener. That could be a very accurate description for this LP. Even though I listened to it with joy and enthusiasm from its first seconds (and this attitude sometimes makes any existing flaws inaudible…), it continued to thrill me even after repeated listening.

@ koultouranafigo


Colin Green said...

The album is available as a download from Bandcamp:

Paul said...

Thanks Colin - I updated the review.


A small correction/addition. The LP came out on three different labels: El Negocito, S7 and Mr Nakayasi.
Here is Mr. Nakayasi's bandcamp link:

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