July 12, 2024

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CD review: Mal Waldron and Terumasa Hino – Reminiscent Suite – 1973 – 2024: Video, CD cover

American pianist Mal Waldron’s music is often associated with solo piano albums or acoustic trios, but it’s less known that his music was of a different nature during the early 70s. After his relocation to Europe in 1965, he regularly recorded on local labels (most significant – for German Enja and several albums for ECM), but later, during the early 70s, he became an almost cult like figure on the Japanese jazz scene as well. Many of his best albums were recorded in Japan, or are collaborations with leading Japanese musicians.

The obscure “Reminicent Suite” is a great example. This two-piece album was recorded in Japan during Mal’s regular Japanese tour, and finds him working with the leading Japanese trumpeter and his group, the Terumasa Hino Quintet, with Mal Waldron taking the piano chair of their regular pianist Mikio Masuda. Terumasa’s Quintet was one of the leading Japanese advanced post-bop collectives of that time, including such sound members as bass legend Isao Suzuki and drummer Motohiko Hino. Improved with Mal’s piano (during early 70s he played much freer than he did in later decades, being a regular co-leader on Steve Lacy albums among others) perfectly communicating the band’s sound as a small orchestra. “Reminicent Suite” is a Waldron composition with strong tunes, well organized and it recalls Mingus’ best works. Terumasa’s trumpet is fast, strong and almost steals the show, but Mal’s piano fits perfectly here, it sounds like he was a Quintet member for months or years. Each musician has enough space for improvisation, a great example of really collective work.

Side B’s “Black Forest” is a shorter and more percussive composition with stronger Japanese music influence. Repetitive rhythmic structure is used as a basic line for soloists changing each other. Less orchestrated, but melodic, and of the same high intensity level, it perfectly completes side A’s “Suite..”.

Never released outside of Japan, this album is too obscure to be better known and more popular. It’s a real pity – this work is a true Mal Waldron and Japanese jazz masterpiece.

Originally released in 1973, Reminiscent Suite is a collaboration between American pianist Mal Waldron and Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino, working with a band of top Japanese musicians from the period, performing two extended tracks, both taking a side each. One of several Japan-only albums recorded and released by Waldron over 30 years, this album has never been commercially available outside of Japan and is released as part of the BBE Music J Jazz Masterclass Series on 200g vinyl in a gatefold suite with new photos by Tadayuki Naito, liner notes and essays. 

BBE Music is thrilled to present J Jazz: Free and Modern Jazz From Japan 1954-1988, a remarkable large-format book covering some of the deepest, rarest, and most innovative jazz music released anywhere in the post-war era. Compiled by Tony Higgins and Mike Peden, co-curators of BBE Music’s acclaimed J Jazz Masterclass Series, the book also features a foreword by Japanese jazz icon, Terumasa Hino.

This is the first time a book of this type has been has been published outside of Japan and the first anywhere of this size and scale. It is a unique collection of over 500 albums of free and modern jazz recorded and released in Japan during a period of radical transformation and constant reinvention. An era that saw Japan return from the ravages of World War Two to become a global economic power and emerge as both a technological leader and an international cultural force.

Through a unique gallery of albums, J Jazz charts the development of jazz in Japan from the first stirrings of the modern jazz scene in the mid to late 1950s and on through the hard bop and modal jazz of the 1960s. It steers the reader into the radical directions of the 1970s when free jazz, fusion, post-bop, and jazz-funk opened up a growing number of Japanese jazz artists to a new global audience before consolidating in the mid to late 1980s with a musical scene that laid the path for the contemporary jazz generation to follow.

Over 500 full-colour sleeves from many of the leading names in Japanese jazz sit alongside rare and private pressings that tell a story of constant change and musical exploration. J Jazz includes profiles of several leading record labels such as East Wind, Frasco, King Records, and Nippon Columbia as well as critical independents such as Three Blind Mice, ALM, and Aketa’s Disk. J Jazz includes interviews with celebrated jazz photographer Tadayuki Naito, and pianist Tohru Aizawa, bandleader on the totemic spiritual jazz album, Tachibana Vol 1, as well as free-jazz record collector and jazz musician Mats Gustafsson.

The book also features a chapter on albums by non-Japanese artists that only received a Japanese release, with collectible, rare, and obscure releases by figures such as Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Mal Waldron, Steve Lacy, and Art Blakey. J Jazz includes Japanese jazz charts from some of the world’s leading jazz DJs including Gilles Peterson, Toshio Matsuura, Paul Murphy, and Shuya and Yoshihiro Okino. Among the specialist content is a feature on obi strips by record dealer and Japanese jazz expert, Yusuke Ogawa, plus a special article on Japanese Blue Note albums.

Across its 300-plus pages, J Jazz includes a detailed introduction contextualising the music, tracing the story of Japan’s fascination with jazz back before the war. It also features biographical information on many of the key artists involved in shaping the post- war Japanese jazz scene including Sadao Watanabe, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Masabumi Kikuchi, Masahiko Togashi, Terumasa Hino, Yosuke Yamashita, Fumio Itabashi, Masayuki Takayanagi, Takeo Moriyama, Isao Suzuki, and many more.

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