This isn’t just vintage Japanese jazz: its private-pressed, collector-baiting Japanese jazz that was once so rare, many doubted that it even really existed. The Tohru Aizawa Quartet were amateurs who only ever made this one album Tachibana, but by god its a remarkable set, bristling with energy and invention. A very welcome reissue here, on CD and double LP, from BBE.
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How the hell did this stay hush for so long? The privately pressed Tachibana has barely existed until this moment, but a track was unearthed on ‘Deep Modern Jazz from Japan’, a compilation of the country’s best efforts in the genre from the late 60s into early 80s -- a key era for forging a singular jazz identity in a country long fascinated with the music. Recorded in 1975, the record belongs to the Tohru Aizawa Quartet, a band that consisted of burgeoning university students who seemed to use their band as a cathartic outlet, speedrunning through incredible post bop workouts.
One track in and I was in love. “Philosopher’s Stone” is an absolute barnburner, its racing percussion and stabbed piano setting a frenzy in place for solos that sound unstoppable in force, barely allowing a second of refrain to go by. It’s the sound of musicians caught in the storm of playing, thrilled to be collaborating and leaping before they look. The energy makes a seamless transition into “Sacrament”, announced with an ominously melodic saxophone vamp that opens up a slower, more sleuthing jam -- which turns into improvisations both delicate and explosive. Tohru Aizawa Quartet were good at it all.
‘Tachibana’ is supposed to be an artifact, but it’s a gem, is what it is. This is an electrifying set; it’s kind of maddening to think something this blistering and accomplished has been hiding in the shadows for so long. An essential bit of further reading for anyone who has even a passing interest in the history of Japanese jazz.
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- Tachibana by Tohru Aizawa Quartet
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