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Stellar duo head on collision bet ween Abe and free hitter/ skin mangler Toyozumi. The interaction between the t wo of them creates fire works of improvisational exquisiteness, free rambling seat sniffing combustion that on some occasions instigated Abe to divert his attention from his beloved sax to wards marimba and piano hammerings joined with harmonica blo w-outs. Ferocious, ghastly and kerosene charged head slamming action bet ween t wo of Japan's first wave free jazz terrorists.. Taken from two dates on august 5 and 13, 1978, Overhang Party (i have no clues of the significance of the odd title, or how it may relate, if at all, to the contemporary japanese psych band of the same name) pairs Abe with drummer and longstanding improv stalwart Sabu Toyozumi, a longtime presence on the japanese free scene, who played in the yoshizawa trio and probably many others settings beside; he can more recently be heard in a trio with Haino and barre phillips on the two strings will do it cd on psf. abe died on september 9 (though his very last recordings can be found on the last date cd on diw), and when overhang party came out - after his death, obviously - it bore the subtitle "a memorial to Kaoru Abe". aside from the two tracks mentioned above, there are three more duos showcasing abe on a range of instruments - guitar, piano and marimba, with toyozumi on drums throughout - which it's certainly interesting to hear him play, but which give the album as a whole a bitsy and incoherent feel. on guitar (acoustic),
abe sounds like an almost flamenco-influenced bailey, but with regular lapses into dead-end blunder that certainly won't have given derek the shakes. he's not a lot better on piano, and the marimba track is not easy listening. compounding all this is abe's apparent unwillingnes to musically acknowledge his partner's presence for lengthy periods, by either trailing off altogether for up to a minute at a time, or exclusively concerning himself with some popularly undetectable internal improv agenda. toyozumi does his best and admirably well to keep the conversation alive, but is not helped by abe's recalcitrance. 80% of the way through, right when you think it's all crashing down to shit, abe switches back to alto for a blazing finale that's well worth hanging around for.
A typically perverse finale to an existence marked by loose ends, frayings and inconsistencies. something of a sour note to end on, but whatever its taste, it comes not even close to detracting from what must be one of the more incredible lives in the history of free jazz. one can only hope that the psf, tokuma and kojima titles will prompt a broader reinvestigation of the life and music of kaoru abe, and the context in which his music was played and his life lived, a context which is one of the most enthrallingly creative music 'scenes' of the post-war world, easily one a par with comparable and infinitely more revered scenes in new york, chicago, berlin, and london, but in comparison completely submerged and largely undocumented by an oblivious media. i rank abe with jimmy lyons, ornette coleman, and any other worshipped alto master you can name, and these discs rescue and preserve the lost and bewildering heritage of abe, one of the most singular, brilliant and unconstrained spitits of that or any other decade. take a good listen and try to tell me you disagree. (nick cain)