AOKI HUNSINGER JARMAN: TRIO
LINER NOTES from the album
By Carl Wilson of the Toronto Globe and Mail:
also a producer and president of Asian Improv Records) and ensmbles such as the Miyumi Project septet.
With the Trio, Aoki is a rhythm section of one. He has spoken of the drum (his first instrument) as the great meetong point between Asian music and the African roots of jazz in general and the AACM in paticular. He also points to the oft-overlooked prevalence of percussion in many Asian musics.
On "Consequences" for instance, his bass acts as percussion, offering the forward drive absent from the reeds' melodic lines. On "Powerhouse" and "eye to eye", Aoki establishes swinging, boppish riffs that make a sexy, urban challenge to the two wind players' pastoral tendencies. Elsewhere, such as "Hornswoggled", his bowed bass comes in like an earthmover, at once digging a deep foundation for the piece and dragging it out of place, creating a constant tremor of tension.
"The idea of beauty is important to me." he says. "We are creating songs all the time rather than improv." All told, Aoki's effects and interruptions here also help to set a theme: the ways even the most meditative individual, the solitude conjured up by Jarman and Hunsinger's winds, must contend with the menacing thrum of the insistent outside world.
The third part of the group needs the least introduction. Joseph Jarman is a founding memeber of the Art Ensemble and AACM, and a beacon for visionary jazz around the world since the 1960s. The multicultural approaches of Hunsinger and Aoki (as well as Henry Threadgill and hundreds of other jazz musicians today) owe much to the investigations the Art Ensemble made 40 years ago - "Great Black Music, Ancient To The Future" - as the manifest read. The chamber feel of the Trio may also remind listeners, in a different register, of Jarman's more delicate work with ensembles such as Equal Interest, with Myra Melford and violinist Leroy Jenkins.
Jarman founded the Brooklyn Buddhist Association after moving to New York in 1982, and was ordained a monk in 1990; in 1993 he retired from performing to focus on those duties. But after three years he found he missed music, which has as much to say about the spirit as any other discipline. His playing since 1996 has been marked by a reflective calm not often associated with the raucous discord of free jazz, and that contemplative mode is certainly engaged in the Trio, whether he is switching between clarinet and flute, playing sax, or using handheld cymbals, rattles and bells. "We don't have any discussions," Jarman says. "We simply hear the universal sound and join in the wonderful joy of it all."
Indeed, this disc announces itself from the first as a different kind of jazz album, with Hunsinger's opening soprano sax solo a kind of cantorial call to an unseen congregation, and Jarman (as so often on this record) entering second with a supportive counterpoint, this time on alto clarinet. There is little chaos here and less machismo, a refreshing change from the burgeoning athleticism in much of the male-dominated free-jazz scene.
The first recording session for this album was held one day in May of 2000, at Southport Studio in Chicago. ("I broke my elbow about a week later," says Hunsinger, "and was so glad I had gotten the session done.") It was the first time the three had ever played together. After an initially aggressive improvisation, the tunes "went to a mellower place." she says. Each piece was done in one take without advance planning - all the information exchanged was musical.
"One of the most amazing things for me happened in the last piece of the album," recorded that first day, says Hunsinger. "Tatsu and Joseph brought just the perfect contrasts and support to my shenai melody. It was a difficult piece for me. In fact, I don't know if I could have performed it in public due to the nature of the content." Listening to the plaintive shenai that opens "Requiem", you sense what her two partners were picking up on -- it sounds like the cry of a wounded beast. Jarman's elegiac bass flute soon arrives to pay it tribute, for which Aoki provides a rattling bass ambience. The piece builds and builds, Aoki in particular pushing hard against the authority of Hunsinger's shenai, as if all of nature were battering up against the human element, its most contradictory part. Eventually the piece seems to erode away, collapsing like a riverbank, the colour draining out of the picture.