When people speak of Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come, they often do so with awe — or disdain, depending who you're asking (at the time even Miles Davis accused Coleman of being "all screwed up inside"); when further questioned why it's such a remarkable album, details about unusual meter and through-composition versus jazz standards versus avant-garde versus what was "happening" in 1959 usually dissolve into a flustered discussion of personal connection and "it just changed everything, man". But regardless of its influence, Coleman was never content to rest on successes and spent his life chasing, as the title of his debut record says, Something Else!!!!
The music of Otomo Yoshihide (coincidentally, Yoshihide was born the year Coleman's masterpiece came out, and both men share fourteen letters in their names) traces a parallel line to Coleman. One of the founders of the so-called "Onkyo" sound and first proponents of electroacoustic improvisation at Tokyo's Off Site club, he is quick to shrug at the label and dispel the fame of cultural implications. And is he a guitarist, a turntablist who uses no source vinyl, a feedback artist, or a noise rock guy? These entire he effortlessly commands (see the 2007 Monochrome Otomo for examples of each), and this pursuit of sonics down variable venues allows him to be a suitable re-interpreter of Coleman's aesthetic poetry.
At times Yoshihide is known to follow the improvisation trance by physically and sonically abusing his instrument(s) in an emotionally aloof manner. However, presented as solos, trios (with Mizutani Hiroaki on bass, kalimba, misc. and Yoshigaki Yasuhiro on drums) and quintets (the trio plus mistress of sine-waves, Sachiko M, and Jim O'Rourke on EMS synthi), each of these six versions of "Lonely Woman" demonstrates a patient reverence. Despite the moments of bombast and severe augmentation, here he and the group hinge themselves in homage to Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins' melodic and textural interplay, transcending while picking over the original five-minute form.
"Lonely Woman (Quintet)" exploits an independence of ideas in counterpoint to Yoshihide's methodical fire of sustained notes: Yasuhiro applies his brushes in rattling bursts, M's no-input sampler flickers on and off and onto unwavering clarity, O'Rourke produces squiggles, non-tonal blips, morphing pulses and a song of nearly-human howls, Hiroaki's bass work provides a grounding for interlopers to occasionally catch hold of. Near the ten-minute point, Yoshihide settles on screaming amp, and O'Rourke and M join in triptych for a four-minute droning shriek. Alone on acoustic guitar (a different recording than the one from his 2005 album Guitar Solo), he sticks to the page but adheres to the aforementioned creeping feeling, forgoing meter and tempo to create one long gesture; his ample use of spectral dynamics, palm mutes, pregnant pauses and well-guarded passing tones make this a ballad with benefits, so to speak (substitute "silence" with "extended bouts of feedback" and you have track five aka the electric version). The trio of Yoshihide, Hiroaki and Yoshigaki oscillates between this loud and supple approach on two tracks, the gamelan bells, low gong and drum rolls, shakers and Hiroaki's bowed lyricism of the latter being the most oracular and narcotic piece of the disc.
On paper, six narratives of the same subject reads as redundant, pedantic, but you're pressed to name a lull during this coalescent cortège. Quoth Ornette Coleman, "Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time." Yoshihide once said "...I want to focus, to find a whole world in tiny things". Indeed.
Comments and Feedback: