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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Itaru Oki Quartet - Live at Jazz Spot Combo 1975 (NoBusiness Records, 2021) & Alan Silva, Itaru Oki, Makoto Sato & Richard Comte - Celebration (Nunc, 2022)

By Stef Gijssels

Two years ago, Japanese trumpeter Itaru Oki passed away, and was remembered by Eyal Haruveni on this tribute article. For fans of Oki, luckily archival material was still available and we can thank the labels for releasing these two albums. 

Itaru Oki Quartet - Live at Jazz Spot Combo 1975 (NoBusiness Records, 2021)

The first one is released by the Lithuanian NoBusiness label, which has a knack for delving up quality material from older free jazz archives. The recording captures a performance from 7th December, 1975 at the Jazz Spot Combo, a jazz club in Fukuoka City, Japan. The band consists of Itaru Oki on trumpet and flute, Yoshiaki Fujikawa on alto saxophone and flute, Keiki Midorikawa on bass, and Hozumi Tanaka on drums. 

The value of this performance cannot be overestimated. Very little material is available from Oki before 1974, and most material is European-based after he moved to Paris around that time, so it is fascinating to hear him perform in this Japanese line-up in the mid-seventies. The sound quality is excellent, the playing is fresh and highly energetic, and the entire band is really enjoying themselves. 

Even if at times the Ornette Coleman sound shines through - not only because of the line-up, but also because of the music's themes and structural elements, as well as Fujikawa's phrasing on alto - Oki has sufficient character to delevop his own sound for the band, which has the colour and dynamics of that time period, but truly enjoyable, also today. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Alan Silva, Itaru Oki, Makoto Sato & Richard Comte - Celebration (Nunc, 2022)

The second album makes a time jump to 2019, offering us a performance in Paris with Alan Silva on keyboards, Richard Comte on guitar, and Makoto Sato on drums. The occasion is the 80th birthday of Alan Silva, like Oki a non-French national who moved to Paris in the seventies. Sato too lives near Paris.

The nature of the music is different, more complex, a little more tormented and constricted, despite the album's title. The shift from free jazz to free improvisation is obvious: sounds bounce against other sounds, in explorative adventures and a more physical, often harsher experience of listening, the flow is more granular and angular, also exacerbated by the choice of instruments, with keyboards and guitar offering electric sonic possibilities that contrast and merge well with the acoustic power of trumpet and drums. Unexpected anticipation and intensity define the overall sound. The music is open-textured and open to surprises.  

Listen and download from Bandcamp

You can watch a video from the same concert that is not captured on the album.