Monday, February 24, 2020

The Freedom Unity - 1971 - Down by the Naked City

The Freedom Unity 
Down by the Naked City

01. Down By The Naked City (28:37)
The Doors Of Perception
The Dancing Protoplasm
02. The Equator 8:40
03. The Old Castle 8:18
04. Light Up 7:35

Akira Ishikawa (drums)
Hiromasa Suzuki (electric piano)
Hiroshi Suzuki (trombone)
Kunimitsu Inaba (double bass)
Takeru Muraoka (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone)

Iconic avant-garde masterpiece from the legendary jazz supergroup featuring keyboardist Hiromasa "Colgen" Suzuki, saxophonist Takeru Muraoka, bassist Kunimitsu Inaba, trombonist Hiroshi Suzuki and drummer Akira Ishikawa. The group was formed by all-stars japanese jazz musicians, members of Terumasa Hino Quintet, Count Buffalos & The Soul Media, starting with "Something" in 1970 (highlighting saxophonist Takeru Muraoka), recorded "Salute To Soul" & "Dynamic Rock" featuring japanese rock songstress Masami Chino (Sammy) in 1971, and Hiroshi Suzuki's album "Cat" released in 1975. The album opens on the title-track, an extended modal suite over 23 minutes played in two parts ("The Doors Of Perception" & "The Dancing Protoplasm"), composed by Hiroshi Suzuki, follow by "The Equator", "The Old Castle" & the Muraoka's original composition, "Light Up". All tracks arranged by Hiromasa Suzuki.

Today, we're beginning with an excellent jazz fusion record from Japan. The Freedom Unity was strung together by Hiromasa Suzuki in the early 70s, and he turned this troupe of Japanese jazz musicians into a flat-out revolutionary supergroup - this is seriously fantastic stuff.
It's some of the earliest fusion to ever surface out of Japan, dating to 1971, and counts for the group's second full-length. Where Hiromasa shines on the electric piano, Kunimitsu Inaba matches with some impeccable basslines that charge the pacing to its full capacity. Drummer Akira Ishikawa pins down the energetic stream with a firm-yet-precise grip, and the horns provide the gleam of light streaming from some of the most energetic jazz I've heard. The first track in particular is an endless astronomic navigation that's both clean and executed. Though it lasts for the length of the A-side, one can't help but thirst for more. Neither quality nor intensity diminish on Side B, leaving me with one question as the album wraps up - where do I find their first album, Something?
In any case, it's splendid early fusion that treads the space of the more avant-garde stuff with an understandable injection of electric Miles Davis influence. This is definitely the kind of fusion that can appeal to both the jazz novice and the jazz connoisseur, and I warmly recommend its entrance into your ears.

Echoes of early Weather Report and Miles from '69 can be heard on the first 20+ minute piece. It starts off really well, but gradually ascends into a more self-indulgent mode of overly long dissonant noodling that's hardly an eye-opening moment. Some of the standards such as the "The Old Castle" appeal to me a bit more and therefore somewhat salvage the album. The "avant-gardisms" of the first track were executed more coherently on Weather Report's albums.


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  3. Despite the less than glowing review, I've always held a real fondness for this excellent recording. Many thanks for offering me a long overdue upgrade, and for sharing 'Something' as well - a title of which I was never aware. My gratitude.