Reviews by Massimo Ricci

The A23H chronicle


Otomo Yoshihide’s New Jazz Orchestra - ONJO (doubtmusic)

Otomo Yoshihide’s passion for jazz is well known, and has fuelled two of his most highly acclaimed working units since 1999. The ONJQ evolved into the ONJO around 2004, after the departure of saxophonist Kikuchi Naruyoshi and the arrival of Kahimi Karie, Alfred Harth, Sachiko M and Kumiko Takara. Aside from serving as a showcase for Yoshihide’s unique compositional skills, ONJQ/ONJO have celebrated artists as diverse as Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Jim O’Rourke, James Blood Ulmer and even the Beatles, reinventing their compositions as an utterly convincing mesh of EAI and furious free jazz. Familiar themes expand inexorably into free-for-all improvisation, at times homing in on scattered, near-silent small sounds while on other occasions (such as their version of O’Rourke’s “Eureka”) reaching for Last Exit-style devastation. It’s a peculiar sonic morphology that generates hours of ear-cleansing, high-octane material.

ONJO – the album – is the more “intellectual” of the two Orchestra outings. “Eureka” is sung in Jane Birkin-like French by Kahimi Karie, who whispers and sighs until Otomo’s gentle chordal accompaniment gives way to hundreds of contrasting lines in an explosion of intertwining counterpoint. “Theme from Canary” starts with ruined vinyl and continues with a melodic motif worthy of Gil Evans. Charles Mingus’s “Orange Was the Colour of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk” (already recorded by ONJQ on Tails Out) walks along the cliff-top of pulverized freedom, and Ornette Coleman’s “Broken Shadows” rises out of a boiling lava of false starts and snippets. By contrast, the closing “A-Shi-Ta”, with Hamada Mariko vocalising over a slow percussive pattern, could almost be incidental music to a theatre piece, its evocative depth and intensity perfectly counterbalancing the preceding tracks.

In Paris Transatlantic