Click here to [close]

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Akira Sakata & Entasis - Live in Europe 2022 (Trost, 2023)

By Ferruccio Martinotti

As a simple (biological) matter of fact, the Giants are fading away, being circle of life and circle of music drawn by the same compass. Luckily for us, the last ones still standing are firing all cylinders, like there was no tomorrow, not even knowing what the word “retirement” could mean. An astonishing example, still unreachable for ranks of much younger musicians, comes from the very far east and is a frequent flyer on these community’s skies, Akira Sakata. 

Born in Hiroshima in 1945, a trained marine biologist, his strike on the Damascus Way of Jazz is Voice of America heard on the radio soon after war's end, and from that moment on he starts paving his long path towards the myth. Thanks to a prodigious technique on reeds, he moves totally at ease on different musical fields: from the superb trio with the piano of Yosuke Yamashita to the noise powerhouse of Hijokaidan; from the electro-acoustic nuances along with Jim O'Rourke to the telluric sounds of Last Exit with Bill Laswell. Last, and definitely not the least, the refined chamber jazz as Entasis, a duo with Giovanni Di Domenico. In 2018, in Thessaloniki, Sakata and Di Domenico joined forces with Giotis Damianidis (guitar) and Christos Yermenoglu (drums), the recording of the concert is issued the following year as Hōryū-ji (El Negocito, 2019) and, as often happens among true free souls, this pretty impromptu meeting generates an amazing, ongoing project. Just a couple of words about Di Domenico. Italian, resident in Belgium, he is in our humble opinion one of the most underrated aces around. Influenced by the tradition of the bravest jazz piano players, the mix-up of Cecil Taylor, African ritual music, rock and the most radical avant/impro, developed through various international projects (Hintanoi, MulaBanda, Tetterapadequ, Dream and Drone Orchestra) provides an extraordinary canvas for his Fender Rhodes painting. 

This double CD, Live in Europe 2022, issued by Austrian label Trost Records, catches Sakata & Entasis at the top of its game, across three stages during a 2022 European tour: Thessaloniki (11.04 Duende Jazz Upstairs); Padova (14.04 Centro d'Arte); Brussels (16.04 Les Ateliers Claus). The related gigs show some slight changes on the line-up, besides the fixed texture of Sakata, Di Domenico and Giotis Damianidis. So in Greece we find the double bass of Petros Damianidis and Stephanos Chytiris on drums; in Italy Balazs Pandi on drums, duty covered in Belgium by Aleksandar Skoric, but the menu remains a tasteful full-monty of Akira's way of music: lyricism and brutal force, geometry and sheer improvisation, sonic sturm und drang with the gift of his usual interventions on mike. 

A final foot note: the history of music owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to those small, proudly and fiercely independent record labels, driven by brave, fearless, devoted and maverick sonic explorers, so madly generous to grant a safe harbor to artists otherwise forgotten under the dust of time or by the nasty rules of the market. Well, little/gigantic Trost (see its roster of artists) is definitely one of that kind. Long live.