In the Shadow of the Poo Sun

NEW NATIVE
Masabumi Kikuchi
Susto
Sony : 1981

MK, electric piano, Korg keyboard, synthesizer; Terumasa Hino, cornet, Bolivian flute; Steve Grossman, soprano sax, tenor sax; Dave Liebman, soprano sax, tenor sax, flute; Sam Morrison, soprano sax; James Mason, guitar; Butch Campbell, guitar; Marlon Graves, guitar; Barry Finnerty, guitar; Billy Paterson, guitar; Ed Walsh, synthesizer; Hassan Jenkins, bass; Alyrio Lima, percussion; Aiyb Dieng, percussion; Airto Moreira, percussion; Richie Morales, drums; Victor “Yahya” Jones, drums.

PART ONE: THIS MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED
The producer doesn’t understand why they’re not ready to record. The instruments have been tuned, the mics tested, and the levels set, but Masabumi Kikuchi indicates there’s something left to do. He signals the musicians to gather round and removes a worn photograph of Miles Davis from his jacket pocket. He nails it to the wall above his armada of keyboards and calls for a moment of silence.

This would be better if they were in Osaka, the last place that Miles performed his visionary fusion music before slipping into mysterious self-exile. But the luxurious Sony studios in the heart of Tokyo will have to do. It helps that Kikuchi has assembled a number of musicians from Miles’s own band – Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman, and Airto. Plus he’s got his frequent collaborator Terumasa Hino, the Japanese trumpeter who’s uncannily kept the flame of Davis’s music alive.

Kikuchi refuses to use the word seance for this session. But there’s no escaping the fact that it’s been over five years since Miles disappeared. The promise and possibilities of his electric music seemed to vanish with him. Even the fusion by his proteges and cohorts is hopelessly bland, stale, saccharine. So this attempt to exhume and extend the music of the master is going against the tide. He’s attempting to make music that steps outside of time.

As a protege of Gil Evans, Kikuchi is usually known for more subtle and coloristic arrangements. Even his previous album, Kochi/Wishes - which involved almost all of Davis’s 1975 band – incorporated ambient patches and swaths of traditional Japanese music. But this time he wants that sound. He wants the hard grooves, the soaring trumpet, the hiccuping electric guitars and percolating mesh of polyrhythms. Let the fans find the unique subtleties after the fact – the electronic breakdown where it sounds like the notes themselves are being pulled apart like taffy, the percussive flourishes, the inventively dissonant keyboard textures.

Now they’re ready. Kikuchi signals the producer to roll the tape. He cues the band with a nod of his head and the rumbling groove of “New Native” begins.


PART TWO: THIS IS DEFINITELY HAPPENING

As you may have heard (as we did) via Ethan Iverson, Kikuchi has some serious health issues and a benefit concert has been assembled for tonight, Monday, 27 September, at Le Poisson Rouge; doors at 9:30pm. All of the proceeds from this event will go to defray Kikuchi’s considerable medical costs. We are out of town for this event, but the line-up is ridiculous and indicative of the influence Kikuchi has had on the music. We encourage all who can go to go, and send our heartfelt get-well wishes out to Kikuchi and those closest to him.

In addition to the track above, we have also re-upped our previous Kikuchi posts: this one from ’07 featuring a track from the aforementioned Kochi/Wishes; and this one from ’08, with two cuts from Kikuchi’s early 1970s collaboration with Gil Evans.

Those looking to go deeper are advised to explore the multi-part discography compiled at the Poomaniac fan site.

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3 Responses to In the Shadow of the Poo Sun

  1. I wasn’t aware that MK was ill and am saddened to hear of it. I wish him well.

    “Music that steps outside of time” captures an important point, recalling how in the early 80s the American jazz environment wasn’t nearly as accepting of Miles’ mid-70s work as it has since become. (In 1983, Greg Tate’s critical repositioning of the electric Miles in Downbeat was a revolutionary and corrective action that is clearly no longer required in 2010.) In retrospect, it’s kind of amazing how Kikuchi managed to sneak both Susto and One Way Traveler past the Columbia suits.

    Oh, and all three reed players on these sessions are Miles alumni. Sam Morrison replaced Sonny Fortune– I think he was the last sax player with the group prior to MD’s extended break.

  2. Hey Doug – Always great to see you here.
    Great point about the Tate piece and how much the conventional wisdom about Miles 70 period has shifted over the years. And you’re right about how lucky Kikuchi (and Hino) were to get this music released by a major label at that time. Only in Japan?
    Thanks for the catch about Sam Morrison – he had slipped us by!

  3. Ay, you’re right, One Way Traveler was Japan only. But Susto– as well as Hino’s Double Rainbow– somehow made it as domestic US issues. Some music director probably lost some Xmas bonus as a result but hey, foresight is a bitch.

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