Dental Kafka
Trost TR 197

As members in good standing of the Free Music community the music made by the international Bonjintan quartet may surprise many people. Still of a uniform high quality, the session offers unabashed swing as energetic as any Rock groove. Surprise may be germane however. For while alto saxophonist/clarinetist Akira Sakata is one of Japan’s original Free Jazzers playing with everyone from Paal Nilssen-Love to Simon Nabatov, he often works with others players with more rhythmic orientation like the ones here. American bassist Jim O’Rourke has been in Gastor del Sol and Sonic Youth, Italian pianist Giovanni Di Domenico has worked with Chris Corsano, while Japanese drummer Tatsuhisa Yamamoto has recorded with Arve Henriksen.

All the same while Yamamoto’ shuffles and backbeats are present, his delivery never pounds or gets overloud. During some sequences his ringing cymbal and gong accents bring a shimmer of Gagaku court music to the tracks. Additionally while Di Domenico’s electric piano sounds ring with poppy rococo smears, his acoustic piano phrasing can be either vigorously processional or crisply rarified. Those qualities are respectively prominent as part of an interlude on the title track and in the delicate introduction to “Bonjin”. During that track and during other sequences elsewhere however are when O’Rourke’s playing is assertive; otherwise he limits himself to propulsive rhythmic flow.

Sakata’s shamanistic vocalizing is as ferocious and unsettling as anything screamed by Punk or Metal singers. Choked out gutturally on a track like “Ape Huci Kamuy” the murmurs aptly join the pianist’s vigorous metronomic pacing without fissure. Here and especially on “Dental Kafka”, his astringent alto saxophone shrills demonstrate his ability to wring an infinite number of variations from every slur and smear, with glosslalaia and frenetic split tones common. Correlated piano accents and vigorous drum pumps suggest a pandemic take on classic Coltrane, but his elevated energy scream his alliance to 21st Century Free Jazz.

On other tracks trills from Sakata’s clarinet move the exposition forward, yet the emaciated whistles and puffs of his clarion phrasing are comprehensive and delicate. This reed motif too adheres to the carefree swing feel which illuminates the program, since a connection is established with a steady bass pulse, intensified drum ruffs and keyboard variations that judder every which way.

As unique as its sardonic title, Dental Kafka should impress anyone with a liking for creative free music of any genre.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Ape Huci Kamuy (God of fire by Ainu people) 2. Dental Kafka 3. Koro Koro Donguri 4. Bonjin

Personnel: Akira Sakata (alto saxophone, clarinet and voice); Giovanni Di Domenico (piano and Hohner pianet); Jim O’Rourke (bass) and Tatsuhisa Yamamoto (drums)