The Rising Sun

Tadanori Yokoo, Vocal Group Niji. MoMA.

Masayuki Takayanagi and New Direction for the Arts
Free Form Suite
Three Blind Mice : 1972

MT, guitar; Kenji Mori, reeds; Hiroshi Yamazaki & Joe Mizuki, drums, percussion.

Dear C,

We recently came into a huge cache of adventurous Japanese jazz recordings from the 1970s. We thought we had a pretty good handle on this whole out jazz thing, but now our apartment is stacked with old records featuring strange covers and unfamiliar personnel. We feel like we’re 16 again, but not always in a good way. It’s been exciting but baffling. How do all these musicians relate to one another? What was the cultural context?

In the meantime, we’ve been listening back to the big acts on the scene — you know, everyday household names like saxophonist Kaoru Abe and our main man, guitarist Masayuki “Jojo” Takayanagi. We knew him more for his abstract noise constructions, but we recently broke out one of his earlier recordings, Free Form Suite, and were surprised that it opens with a fairly straight blues and cover of “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” So it must be true: everything comes from somewhere.

The album gets progressive weirder from there and you know we’re always jonesing for the freaky shit. “Sun in the East” offers gorgeous, soaring, Coltrane-inspired action, filtered through Takayanagi’s insistent six string strum and made entirely his own. The album is considered super-rare collector’s bait, but we swear this tune could be a jazz standard in another context — or maybe better yet, on another continent. Play it for your deaf nephew and see for yourself!

“Free Form Suite” is, as advertised, a probing selection that shows off Takayanagi’s ensemble in exploratory mode. It’s a gaseous shape of things to come, a scrawl in the margins writ large. Its wild spirit evokes those heaping piles of Japanese LPs that we really ought to move so we can properly vacuum.

So darling, if you don’t mind, hit your rolodex and send some of your Japan-o-phile jazz friends our way to help us decode our beautiful mess. We’ll welcome them with open arms.

Much love,
The boys at D:O

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