What a wonderful collection this is: ten brilliant East meets West jazz-funk bangers from the mid-70s, as concocted by three of Japan’s finest musicians of the time. Kiyoshi Yamaya provides the super-slick arrangements, while Toshiko Yonekawa and Kifu Mitsuhashi supply masterful licks on the Japanese koto and shakuhachi. Put these together and you have a really beguiling mix of slinky vibes and subtle instrumentation that works so well, the traditional flavours baked deep into the modern feels: a musical marriage made in downtown heaven.
Asado Yunta bumps a beautiful bassline, sparkling keys underpinning Mitsuhashi’s lonesome, pining shakuhachi lines. Funky as hell, with added melancholy – expertly played, perfectly arranged – a stone cold killer tune.
Hohai-Bushi ups the tempo, pushing along, pushing along: it’s an around midnight drive through the neon city, guitars chasing Mitsuhashi around the studio floor, shaking tailfeathers, Roy Ayers side-tracked by those yakuza blues: the night never seeming to end.
Soma Nagareyama takes Stevie’s superstition somewhere new entirely: tweaked and phreaked into new cultural dimensions, oriental mysticism layered over the electric keys – two become one as yin asks yang if they’d like to get it on, bang a gong. Bob James decamped to Tokyo, the fusion flying high, a ridiculously fine reinterpretation of the classic groove.
Yagi-Bushi sees Yonekawa fire up the koto: tripping the light fantastic over the horn charts and the boogie back bass-line, percussive stabs interrupting the flow until the koto flies back in again, triumphant and ready to rumble.
It`s brilliant stuff all round. A meeting of minds, cultural cross-collisions spearheaded by world-class musicianship: global grooves with cohesiveness and openness as touchstones, painting those wonderful soundscapes in the mind and on the dance-floor. It’s a guaranteed party-starter for the jazz-funk crews: a golden age of experimentation captured on tape and rediscovered all these years later. An absolute master blaster.
Kiyoshi Yamaya, Toshiko Yonekawa & Kiju Mitsuhashi`s Wamono Groove: Shakuhachi & Koto Jazz Funk ’76 is out now, on Paris` 180g.