Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hiromasa Suzuki - 1972 - Rock Joint Biwa ~ Kumikyoku Furukotofumi

Hiromasa Suzuki
Rock Joint Biwa ~ Kumikyoku Furukotofumi


01. Ame No Iwayado (8:22)
02. Hayabusawake To Medori No Okimi (2:32)
03. Ashiharashiko (5:17)
04. Uruwashito Saneshisaneteba (3:20)
05. Kamuyamatoiwarehiko (3:13)
06. Hi No Kawa (2:54)
07. Ananiyashiewotomewo (5:17)
08. Watatsumi No Irokonomiya (2:37)
09. Yamatoshi Uruwashi (3:55)

- Hiromasa Suzuki / piano & electric piano
- Kunimitsu Inaba/ bass
- Hideo Sekine / drums
- Shiho Miyake / biwa
- Akira Ishikawa / wadaiko
- Kiyoshi Sugimoto / guitar
- Takehisa Suzuki / trumpet
- Takeru Muraoka / tenor sax
- Tadataka Nakazawa / trumpet
- Tamaki Quartet

In the early 70's, jazz pianist and composer Hiromasa 'Colgen' SUZUKI and his self-titled trio (with Kunimitsu INABA on bass and Hideo SEKINE on drums) started working on a project of musicians which should have made a lengthy series of concept albums mixing jazz rock and world music called ROCK JOINT.

Musicians that worked around this albums were more of jazz background and some of the musicians stayed in the line-up of both albums released as ROCK JOINT projects even though the style of music was slightly different; first 'Rock Joint Biwa' was centered around the japanese instrument biwa, giving a fresh feel to album's early jazz influenced psychedelic rock (conceptually inspired by mythology in the ancient book Furukotofumi), while the second one 'Rock Joint Cither' was oriented around sitar and Indian music (cither being a mistranslation of sitar). Sounds of these albums were still very much under the impression of earlier psychedelia that for example used wah wah effects on the guitar but they were under the influence of early fusion as well; the second album could be in some respect be compared to indian fusion bands like CODONA but not as meditative and much more energetic.

Hiromasa SUZUKI would continue to record jazz albums under his name or under his trio until his death in 2001, leaving also behind him some soundtracks and collaborations with bands COUNT BUFFALOS ROCK BAND, THE FREDOM UNITY and ELECTRO KEYBOARDS ORCHESTRA as well.

As you can see from the back cover, this "Fulukotofumi" name came from a mis-romanization on the LP itself. There is no "l" sound in Japanese, it's always a hard/trilled "r". They sound the same to the Japanese ear, so they often make that mistake when translating things. Whoever got the LP and submitted it to Pokora obviously could only read that bit of text on the jacket, so Pokora printed it like that in one of his books and the incorrect name spread around. The actual name as I printed it above means "Suite: Furukotofumi". The Furukotofumi is also known as the Kojiki, or the "record of ancient matters". It's the oldest known book in Japan (from around 600 or 700 AD) and is full of creation myths, poems and songs, etc. This album has the concept of fusing the spirit of Japanese mythology (primarily through the use of biwa as lead instrument) with jazz and "new rock" (as they liked to call it in Japan back then), so that's why the Kojiki is used as source material. It was released as one of those Victor 4-channel discs that were popular in Japan for a brief period, and was actually supposed to be the first of a series of these concept albums. Unfortunately, only one more was released. It came out in 1973 and is called "Rock Joint Sitar - Kumikyoku Silk Road". As you might guess, this one has the concept of fusing new music with ancient Indian and central Asian sounds, with sitar replacing the biwa. It features many of the same musicians as the first LP."

We are at the meeting place of rock and jazz. Except the all-instrumental Furukotofumi has a completely different sound than Yokota's bunch. Definitely not a mystical experience as Primitive Community is, yet there are some fascinating Japanese indigenous moments to behold - primarily used as interludes between songs. I'd say the scales are more tipped towards the jazz side here, but make no mistake, this clearly is psychedelic rock influenced throughout. Some fantastic electric guitar work, including at least one blazing acid solo (and mixed with a biwa no less) amongst other excellent amped up shredders. A definite early fusion vibe permeates as well, no doubt informed by the UK groups like Nucleus or Soft Machine. Rhodes, piano, violin and organ also get their turn in the solo spotlight. Even a little Bacharach-ian lounger, with some wonderful horn and string charts, soap opera organ and a nice toned down guitar rip. The highlight is the pounding drum, biwa and psychedelic wah wah guitar piece followed by the groovy horn charts, sax solo - and get this - all phased out ala Dieter Dirks in the Kosmische Kourier studio. There's a lot here to digest.

1 comment:

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