The desire to discover and delve into new and unexplored areas of music has turned attention on the Japanese jazz scene of the 1970s, often regarded as its gilded age. The recent groundbreaking sell-out BBE compilation J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984 threw much needed light on this fascinating era and presented a range of artists and music that surprised and delighted all who heard it. A key track on the compilation was one of the rarest and least known: Dead Letter by the Tohru Aizawa Quartet, taken from an album that was so elusive, some pondered whether it even existed.
The album, Tachibana, was recored in 1975 and, until included on the J Jazz compilation, was unknown except to a small group of obsessive Japanese jazz collectors. The privately pressed record was the only album made by the Quartet, four amateur musicians who were university students at the time. The session was financed by a local businessman, Ikujiroh Tachibana, who pressed up a few hundred copies to use as a business card. In the intervening 40 odd years since its recording, few copies have surfaced, making it an in-demand yet elusive artefact from the golden age of Japanese jazz. BBE Records are honoured to present a fully authorised reissue of this holy grail, licensed directly from the band themselves.
Tachibana has all the necessary components of a cult album: pressed in small numbers, a few mysterious and vague details about its origins, languishing in obscurity for decades and, above all, superb musical craftsmanship and skill. It can now be enjoyed by a new audience around the world.
The album opens with the dynamic percussion workout Philosopher’s Stone written by the then law-student and drummer Tetsuya Morimura. It propels along with the band at full pelt, showcasing Morimura’s well-developed drumming style. For a teenage amateur player to compose and perform such an accomplished and impressive piece is a testament to the talent that the band contained. Philosopher’s Stone is followed by Sacrament, an epic modal composition by saxophonist Kiyochiro Morimura that fans of Wayne Shorter, Pharaoh Sanders and late-era John Coltrane will appreciate. After an extended intro the band drop into a heavy, churning groove, Morimura’s saxophone scorching above the volcanic rhythm section. Dead Letter, written by Aizawa himself, is an epic piano led symphony of spiritual jazz. Think McCoy Tyner at his imperial finest and you’ll get a favour: impact, emotion and power all suffuse to create a overwhelming experience. Amazingly, this is still the only Aizawa composition yet to be recorded.
The Tachibana album also includes two cover versions, both Latin favoured numbers delivered with élan and brio: La Fiesta by Chick Corea and the classic Samba de Orfeu by Luiz Bonfá. So, just five tracks in total, the sole existing evidence of an astonishing band, the Tohru Aizawa Quartet.
The long-awaited reissue of this mythic album includes new liner notes and photos, plus fully translated notes from the original Japanese text. The album will be presented in an authentic thick card gatefold sleeve in a faithful reproduction of the original sleeve design.
STAFF COMMENTSPatrick says:
THE holy grail of Japanese jazz gets a much needed reissue here thanks to BBE. Originally pressed in such small numbers, it was thought to be a myth, "Tachibana" swerves, slides and pirouettes through modal, spiritual and latin styles, capturing an energy and expression few have matched.
A1. Philosopher's Stone
C1. La Fiesta
D1. Dead Letter
D2. Samba De Orfeu