For any jazz fan interested in hearing what the Japanese were doing as far as playing jazz in the years 1961-1983, this great 2 CD set of music will go a long way as far as J-Jazz that was heard mostly only in that country. As the OBI strip states--"Esoteric, Modal and Progressive Jazz"--and that's exactly what's here. The remastered sound really brings this music alive--clean and crisp with good separation between instruments. The 30 page booklet (in both Japanese and English) has in-depth notes on each track along with a list of musicians for each track, plus small b&w repros of the individual album covers. The discs snap into trays inside the tri-fold cardboard package. All in all--a nice presentation of this music.
Beginning after WW I the Japanese came under the influence of jazz music--both on records and live concerts. They absorbed the music and began to play jazz themselves. But this isn't a mere imitation of American jazz, but a Japanese interpretation of U.S. jazz. Little known outside their own country with a few exceptions (Sadao Watanabe, Toshiko Akiyoshi, included here) the artists compiled here show that Japan had a deep and thriving connection to jazz. And this collection has a good depth of groups that play various styles of jazz (a number of tracks are lengthy) like the title says.
Listen to "My Favorite Things" (played by a trio that includes a harp), or "The Positive And The Negative" (with a combination of Japanese instruments and a funky back beat), or "Ragam Sinthubairavi" (with Watanabe and Charlie Mariano on alto saxes), or maybe "Kikazaru" (incorporating jazz-rock fusion and a bluesy feel), and "Kisarazu Zinku" (a traditional Japanese melody played by Akiyoshi in a trio setting) and you'll hear what I mean about a country taking and using different jazz styles for themselves. And don't let the song titles throw you off this music--this is good J-Jazz from a wide spectrum of players over a number of years. Any jazz fan will recognize that this is true jazz--just from another country not widely known for playing jazz.
As a longtime jazz fan I was aware that the Japanese were really excited about jazz music, but outside of a few musicians who gained notoriety outside their country I didn't expect to hear so much good jazz--much of it now on rare albums. This fine collection will open your ears if you've never heard J-Jazz in any depth. The Japanese took American jazz and created their own sound which will stretch your ears just a bit. This collection belongs in anyone's music library who is interested in hearing jazz played outside of the U.S. in a country not widely known for playing jazz to any large extent.
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