The list of name bands these guys have been involved with is ridiculously prestigious: Freddie Hubbard, Stan Getz, Barney Kessel, Hiroshima, Andy Summers, Wynton Marsalis, on and on and on. Kenny Endo is a top name in taiko while also playing tsuzumi, shinobue, odaiko, and various percussion instruments. Neil Okimoto mans the vibes, marimba, drums, and percussion. Dean Taba wields a electric 6-string bass, an acoustic upright, and kalimba. Not a guitar, a sax, a keyboard, or a synth in sight, only three gents, and you think of MJQ the moment the disc starts up. But that swiftly changes, oscillating back and forth with bits of Stomu Yamash-ta, John Perry, Morris Pert, and the New Amsterdam Percussion Ensemble, among others.
Percussive elements dominate, and that's cause for rejoicing, 'cause there aren't many ensembles who can arrange that element in a way that inarguably retains musicality. A healthy dose of experimentalism by way of echoes of Eastern classicality invades the CD, shown very well early on—in the second cut, Noon Cycles. Fans of the old Oregon are going to dig deeply into this as well, as there's a novo chamber aspect that defies easy description. World Piece starts out very abstractly then slowly morphs into a Ferde Grofe-ish thematic. I'm not sure how Taba does it, but he manages to split his bass and sound like a synthesizer played by Mark Egan, a striking attribute I have to suspect is attributable to what appears to be a loop station atop his amp (the liner carried snaps of the group in concert), raising the octave and delaying fractionally for a great Paco-esque effect.
This is neither New Age nor traditionalist nor avant-garde but a collision of all three and more. Truly gratifying was the ancient opening to Symmetrical Soundscapes: having recently revisited all the old Zatoichi series, 25 episodes, this song caught my breath, traveling back to that way-cool blind samurai epic and its references to old and modern Japanese musics (the theme of which was written, by the way, by a young Isao Tomita)…not to mention Shintaro Katsu's killer acting job. Then East Meets West, reminiscent of Hisako Yamash'ta's too infrequent guesting in her husband's band East Wind, weighs in with ethereal beauty, and, by the time the nearly hour-long release wound down, I was floating in my own ukiyo-e, quite unwilling to return to the demands of a SoCal Western world. Thus, let the traffic on Pacific Coast Highway clash and clank, I have cherry blossoms to contemplate.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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