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Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi with Masahiko Satoh: Proton Pump

Proton Pump is a milestone achievement in the winding career of alto saxophonist, gibberish shrieker and jazz legend Akira Sakata. It's a lightning-fast, real-time cut-up of melody and bare-knuckle action that swings between the avant garde and hardcore be-bop. Sakata is backed by his famed rhythm crew Chikamorachi -- drummer Chris Corsano and acoustic bassist Darin Gray -- and joined by composer and pianist Masahiko Satoh. Sakata and Satoh emerged out of the late-1960s Tokyo jazz scene -- Satoh already releasing albums and Sakata soon joining the famed The Yamashita Trio -- and while they’ve since become uncompromising pillars of free music and vision this marks their first proper album together. On Proton Pump's four pieces, Sakata is on absolute top form on alto saxophone and clarinet -- blowing bold melodies with unstoppable momentum and also injecting deep textural fields with his startling vocalizations. Satoh's piano is hyperbolic throughout as he splatters counterpoints and brilliant tones at dizzying speed. Recorded before a jaw-dropped audience at Pit Inn, Tokyo in November 2015. LP limited to 500 copies worldwide, includes a full-color inner sleeve and download coupon. CD version comes in a digipak.

Akira Sakata & Jim O'Rourke with Chikamorachi & Merzbow: Flying Basket

Flying Basket is a zonked and fantastic double album of avant jazz, discord and deconstructed rock by five master practitioners. It also marks the debut collaboration by a pair of Japan's legendary transgressors -- saxophonist Akira Sakata and noise pioneer Masami Akita, aka Merzbow. For the past ten years Sakata has rededicated himself to fiery free jazz alongside guitarist Jim O'Rourke and monstrous rhythm section Chikamorachi -- Chris Corsano (drums) and Darin Gray (double bass, percussion). Sakata's playing remains beautiful and exploratory as it did 40 years ago.

But with this quartet, plus special guest Merzbow, the wheels snap off: Sakata ejects the sax and howls; O'Rourke bleeds the guitar of melody, leaving only pulsating electricity. The drum/bass truly swing it and nail it down like Ali/Garrison. Merzbow's analogue sound mass cut textured furrows headlong into these four, leaving behind harmonic shifts and caterwauling in the wake. There's minimalist motifs and repeating horn/bass/six-string phrases woven in but Flying Basket remains a massive free flowing, hallucinatory zone of propulsion. No clichés. They just kick out the jams.

Cut at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin December 2014 by Rashad Becker. 150 gram LPs housed in popping gatefold jacket hand sculpted by Jeremy Kannapell; CD in a Stoughton tip-on mini-LP sleeve.

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2011-09-20
Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi: Live at Hungry Brain

In 2009 Family Vineyard released the first U.S. album by Japanese saxophone legend Akira Sakata in more than 20 years. That critically heralded release, Friendly Pants, was with Sakata’s long running rhythm crew Chikamorachi — drummer Chris Corsano (Paul Flaherty Duo, Bjork, Jandek, etc.) and acoustic bassist Darin Gray (On Fillmore, Grand Ulena, Brise-Glace, etc.). This LP is their follow-up. Recorded during the ’09 Umbrella Music Festival in Chicago, Live at Hungry Brain is an outrageous document by this brawling avant garde trio. Sakata, on alto/clarinet/ vocals, relentlessly pushes Corsano/Gray into the blackout zone where the body drops out and the spirit takes over. On each piece Sakata seemingly levitates higher into a cosmic zone while blasting out gorgeous melodic shapes — even when he sings. Those who have followed Corsano and Gray’s progression through the American rock, noise & free jazz underground will hear this LP as a pinnacle of their talent. It’s an exhilarating, deeply textured and exhausting listen only matched by the outlandish, yet spot-on, cover art by famed Japan illustrator More Rock All Art. Edition of 700 copies.

Akira Sakata & Jim O'Rourke with Chikamorachi: And that's the Story of Jazz...

And that’s the story of jazz… Get it? Well, maybe you had to be there when legendary saxophonist Akira Sakata, guitarist Jim O’Rourke and bombast rhythm crew of percussionist Chris Corsano and double bassist Darin Gray (aka Chikamorachi) jumped in the van for a Japanese tour. This two CD set documents their 2008 jaunt — not the first and far from last — in blistering detail. Shades of Last Exit, Coltrane’s Live in Seattle and even Kousokuya appear here but this quartet has nailed its own unique ‘n’ volatile tension and symmetry during its past six years together. Until now, their albums have only been available as Japanese imports. This is also the third U.S. release by Sakata on Family Vineyard in the past three years. Throughout Sakata charges upper registers on alto sax yet still hooks stunning phrases and harmonic themes. O’Rourke’s radical, electric guitar blasts are massive volleys of pure sound. All the while, Gray relentlessly anchors the torrent with subterranean grooves, scrapes and slaps while Corsano lays waste to his kit, pounding polyrhythms and tones. Together passages transform from blinding, uncompromised brutality to zones where Sakta’s sweetened melodies dance slowly alone and O’Rourke, also on harmonica, adds lonesome country blues. Over-the-top at times, but hey, that’s the story of jazz… If you want Grade-A, blood splattered free music, this is it, but you gotta pay for it.

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2009-09-22
Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi: Friendly Pants

Friendly Pants is the first American release by legendary Japanese saxophonist Akira Sakata in more than 20 years. It pairs the 65-year-old traveler alongside Chikamorachi, the bombast rhythm section of drummer Chris Corsano (Paul Flaherty Duo, Bjork, Jandek) and acoustic bassist Darin Gray (On Fillmore, Grand Ulena, Brise Glace). Since the late 1960s, Sakata has been a constant figure in jazz and creative music scenes as an ever evolving and adventurous, multi-instrumentalist, and member of classic groups such as Yamashita Yosuke Trio and Wha-ha-ha plus many of his own, like the Sakata Akira mii. He has recorded with Chris Cosey, Peter Brötzmann in Last Exit, DJ Krush, Yoshimio, and others.

Since 2005 Sakata has been aligned with Corsano and Gray — a duo equally informed by underground American rock, noise & free jazz — and already issued two other smoked and blown out albums with them in Japan. On each of those they were joined by Jim O’Rourke, who remains in the producer’s chair for this session. Sakata deliverers ferocious / highly lyrical approaches to the post-bop field and with Chikamorachi’s recalls late-period John Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders during the early 1970s at times. While the three smear and tear at the edges, Sakata’s massive tone and melodic sense reins in the chaos to create beauty and awe.

Originally issued on O’Rourke’s Japanese imprint Shakaijin Records, Friendly Pants is now reissued for the rest of the world to dig.