steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Sotto Voce

"Sotto Voce" CD

Public Eyesore

Genres: free jazz, improv

Bryan Day / PE
3803 S 25th St.
Omaha, NE 68107

Jul 21 - 27 2003

Sotto Voce collects three live Japanese free jazz improvisations that will appeal most to improv fans. Although Japan is not necessarily known as the epicentre of free jazz, this is a very solid release, featuring solid improvised performances on the piano, saxophone, percussion, electric guitar, and more. Right from the first track, an often times sparse, yet still energetic performance, recorded September 24 2000, the listener will be pleased by the talent displayed here. Accessibility is out the door, and chaos in the vein of Brotzmann and perhaps even Coleman is what we're treated to. The performance's "climax" occurs with about ten minutes to go in the piece, when the electric guitar and drum combo gets real vicious, smashing about like a free jazz drill. Things cool down with a short piano and sax bit, but not for long as all the instruments join efforts in the last five minutes, creating a cataclysmic cacophony of noise to finish the performance off.

The second performance, at Theatre "Poo" in Tokyo is a similar thirty improv performance of the same quality as the first. The dribbling guitarwork is of special significance, although the other instruments are also used with fantastic fluency. Demented slurs characterize the saxophone, whereas the drum stutters madly and the piano rolls along with ease. Track number three, aka the finale, is only eight minutes long. It's a warmer, gentler piece until the final three minutes, when things become explosive; the drums fire away like a machine gun until the last bit, when everything calms down for the end.

Sotto Voce is not going to appeal to most audiences. That's not the idea. This is a free jazz album for free jazz fans. The Japanese improv scene is quickly emerging to international significance, and this underground artifact gives you three reasons not to miss out.


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 3 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2003]