**2009 release, long out of print, very few copies available** Mooko was the first installment of a short-lived "power trio" comprised of Japanese free saxophonist Akira Sakata, bassist Bill Laswell, and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. At the time of this recording, the latter two were deeply into their Last Exit project, a band with whom Sakata sat in during their tour of Japan. This trio is a bit like a pared-down version of Last Exit, without the incendiary guitar work of Sonny Sharrock and with a somewhat more compositional bent. The opening track, "Nitchimo Satchimo," for example, begins with a sprightly marching cadence before launching into improv. Midway through, however, the music suspends its momentum and Laswell enters with some deliciously slow and deadly funky bass for a few tantalizing moments before lurching back into the theme. About half of the pieces here are improvised and, generally, they don't work as well as the composed ones. Sakata doesn't have either the individual sound or the range of expression to really pull off free improv with great creativity, but given a loose structure, his playing acquires a heady confidence and swagger. Laswell and Jackson are well-meshed by this point and provide enough propulsion and groove to hold together any improv that threatens to meander. The closing cut gets into the sitar-based, dreamy territory that Laswell would explore more thoroughly on his own in bands like Material. At its best, Mooko is an exciting, powerful, and tight little band, capable of developing concentrated bursts of high energy; at other times, the inspiration is lacking. The disc is worth hearing, especially for Last Exit fans wanting to hear that band's rhythm team in a sparser context.