Tetuzi Akiyama's ascent into music continues to be rich with reward on Transmission, a duo with pianist Takuki Kawai. The guitarist has hit two high watermarks at this point in his career: One as a co-founder of the Off-Site series which was key to the development of Tokyo's minimalist improv movement, and the other in the surprising success of his solo blues-based rhythm guitar records. Both moves were daring but in the first he wasn't a top player and the second wore thin. In recent years, however, he's been unabashedly playing notes — real notes — on the acoustic six string, both with longtime playing partner Toshimaru Nakamura and with a variety of instrumentalists, horns and percussion perhaps most notable among them.
Transition finds Akiyama paired with a piano for a lovely set of improvisations that if anything bear a resemblance to the miniatures of Erik Satie. That, no doubt, has something to do with Kawai, who generally works in solo and small group settings for both improvisation and his own compositions. He and Akiyama both employ preparations, although sparingly so, their individual strings softly muted without being robbed of their natural voices. Akiyama additionally uses a slide but only for gestural glissandi, not bluesy wails and moans.
The result is a strikingly gorgeous album, one in a recent string of recordings coming from Akiyama so gorgeously simple that the temptation arises to call them, simply and without further categorization, "music."
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