(Off Note)

Coming in a gorgeous edition whose cover is illustrated with pictures by Japanese painter Eitaro Takenaka (1906-1988), “Homura” is the memorization in digital format of a three-way meeting between pianist Yoriyuki Harada, trumpeter Choi Sun Bae and Alfred Harth, here doubling on tenor sax and clarinet. The album was recorded in March 2007 at Seoul’s Evans during Harada’s tour of Korea and fully justifies its name, as “Homura” means “flame” in the Japanese language; the musicians referred to several variations on this very notion in each piece (the titles’ meanings are explained in detail in the liners) while building the whole concept upon “the violence lurking in and filling our hearts”. If the music produced by the trio is a direct consequence of this kind of feeling, one can only hope to see these guys waiting for someone to kill; the playing is in fact vivaciously engrossing, stretching among schematic difficulties and angular approaches to evolve in scathing soloism of extremely high complexity and discernment. The most incontestable feature in this outing is the ability, typical of genuine virtuosos, of being able to raise hell after dipping toes in pseudo-tranquillity. The opener “Seika” begins with almost meditative recollections – sparse chords by Harada, long tones by Choi and Harth – then dramatically mounts to a splendidly articulated marasmus of dissonant uncontrollable urges morphing into an Art Zoydian march that dissolves into chaos in about fifteen seconds, then it’s back to an unstable calmness destroyed by a collective being envisioning a fractal graphic of the still-to-be-found Rosetta Stone of impossible improvisation. Hard hat area for new age lovers, indeed. More or less the same happens at the start of “Onibi”, a clarinet/piano duet, beginning with Harada in reflective pensiveness, his chords introducing a mutated revision of atmospheres that Debussy would have loved, had he lived 200 years. But when Harth enters the scene, the gear is repeatedly shifted, the music’s speed and intensity reaching nearly inhuman levels, the clarinet an indelible symbol of veritable destruction of ordinariness. How the Seoul-resident Frankfurter manages to shoot hundreds of ever-perfect pitches in such restricted temporal frames without sounding completely crazy is, to this day, one of life’s enigmas for your reviewer. What Mr.23 puts forth in “Noroshi” is beyond any chance of transcription (are you listening, Berklee-graduated bamboozlers?). In the subsequent “Uzumibi”, Choi’s heavily breathy harmonic wheezes and powerful releases of untainted energies characterize another devastating duo with Harada, whose style at times recalls the late Sergey Kuryokhin – check also the monstrous “Kitsunebi” for evidence. The title track, ending the program (too soon!) in stunning fashion, declares – with an official stamp – that free jazz is alive and kicking, Harth and Choi animatedly discussing and reciprocally launching venomous darts over Harada’s lucid fingering madness, symbolized by his mechanical banging and combinations of notes that no “legitimate” theory will ever accept as valid. “New silence” zealots could well decide to look for a place to hang themselves should they venture around these proximities. Me? Next time I’m going to increase the number of my morning press-ups before listening. This is fabulously tough stuff.

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