BUT IT’S NOT SO
East Wind : 1975
SO, trumpet; Reggie Lucas, guitar; Cedric Lawson, keyboards; Masabumi Kikuchi, organ; Don Pate, bass; Roy Haynes, drums.
Okay, so this isn’t quite Agharta-quality space-rock. But Shunzo Ohno’s “But It’s Not So” is a free fusion gem nonetheless. The track is very definitely in the Electric Miles mode, going so far to borrow two key members from Davis’s ensemble — Lucas and Lawson. Add the redoubtable Kikuchi and Roy Haynes and you’ve got quite a globe-spanning supa-group.
Shunzo Ohno, not to be confused with Dr. Ohno, the eccentric hip hop producer on the Stones Throw label, was born in Gifu, a city on the Japanese island of Honshu, in 1949. Early influences included the Blue Note stable of trumpeters — Morgan, Hubbard, Brown — and, if this biographical page is to be believed, his first bit of music writing was for a 51-piece high school orchestra. Ohno left Japan in 1973 at the suggestion of Art Blakey, and waxed this particular tune in New York when he was a mere 25.
Here’s a question: why were the Japanese the only ones making such adventurous fusion at this late point in the 70s? As if they hadn’t received the memo to water down their efforts. Julian Cope’s new Japrocksampler even cites this album as one of the best tributes to Miles “punk-funk” period.
If not mind-expanding, it is still seriously funky. Ohno channels a less stringently lyrical version of Miles over the churning keyboard and organ vamps. Its dazzling technicolor tones bring to mind the pop art contortions of Japanese designer Tadanori Yokoo, who also did the original cover for Agharta.