The beautiful sound stops the time.

March 1, 2018

By Masamichi Okazaki

I can also say for sure that “the beautiful sound stop the passage of time. When I was listening to some disks in the audition room at Audio Note, I felt as if the time stopped for a moment several times. Physiologically, it seems that such a feeling arises when you are filled with emotions that you want to “keep listening to the sound forever.” I will introduce you three disks of such beautiful sounds which seem to stop the time.

#4 Bach's Music Performed on the Marimba. Feeling as if the Time Stopped.

J.S. Bach: Solo Works for Marimba / KUNIKO

J.S. Bach: Solo Works for Marimba / KUNIKO

Bach's music performed on the marimba resonate inside the old church in Estonia. Although I was not there and actually have never even been to the country, the whole scene emerges like a fantasy. Kuniko Kato, the world-class marimba performer, is the one playing Bach's “Unaccompanied Cello Suite,” which is called the Bible of cello, on the marimba. By transposing the score written for cello to marimba she arranged the music by herself.

As a matter of fact, I didn't know Ms. Kato so much. Since I hadn't been interested in the musical instrument, marimba, so much either, I could almost say that her performance genuinely touched my heart for the first time. The first album I listened to was “Kuniko Plays Reich,” which was recorded from 2009 to 2010. Talking about Steve Reich, I used to listen to “Music for 18 Musicians” released from the early ECM Label in '70s as much as I listened to Keith Jarret's records back in those days. It is an enigmatic music that simple patterns seem to continue forever. It is the memory of those years when the term, minimal music, was not yet widely accepted among people.

Then her second album, “Cantus” is selected as the excellent recorded work 2013 of “Pen Club Award” sponsored by Music Pen Club of Japan that I am also participating. Furthermore, “IX Xenakis” and contemporary composers' pieces follow, and this “Bach Works” is the forth piece. The sound created from the 5 octave marimba is rich and round tone of wood. I am surprised to find out the low-pitched tone of marimba is so deep, when I listen to the very low-pitched tone played back sounded like a drone. The classic piece has revived with the innovative marimba performance, and I am convinced that the origin of Reich's minimalism turns out to be in Bach. Kuniko Kato is the only Japanese artist who has a contract with Linn Records producing high-quality albums under Linn in Britain, the long-established record player manufacturer promoting aggressively the network audio in 21st century. The atmosphere indicating the stoppage of time is packed as-is with the disk.

#5 World of Lyric Beauty by Tord Gustavsen

Changing Places / Tord Gustavsen

Changing Places / Tord Gustavsen

This is also the album that you can wallow in fancy as if the time and space stopped. This is the first leader album that Tord Gustavsen, one of the best melodists among Norwegian pianists, recorded in 2003.

All the pieces are Gustavsen's originals. The melody eliminating all the unnecessary parts is composed in a detached tone. It is lyrical but at the same time an uncompromising performance not dragged down to commercialism. I cannot remember how many hundreds of times I listened to this “Graceful Touch” and “Where Breathing Starts.” He released other albums afterwards smoothly, but I believe this debut album is the best. My favorite disk.

#6 Intoxicated with Beautiful Sound Created by a Great Clarinetist of Our Time

Noir / Anat Cohen & The Anzic Orchestra

Noir / Anat Cohen & The Anzic Orchestra
(Anzic Records ‎ANZIC-1201)

Finally, a piece that you can get intoxicate with the beautiful sound of the clarinet of our time. Anat Cohen, the talented woman born in Tel Aviv, Israel, brilliantly appeared in the jazz clarinet world, where human resources were not so abundant. She was born on the New Year's Eve in 1979, went to the United States in 1996, and is now the best of best as a person of the world. Including “3 Cohens” together with her brothers, Yuval Cohen, a conductor and a sax player, and Avishai Cohen, a trumpeter, she has been playing as she desired with various formats such as collaboration, orchestra, Latin, and ethnic bands, and has already created close to 20 leader albums.

What I continuously love to listen to is “Noir,” the relatively early work (recorded in 2006). Having Oded Lev Ari from the same hometown as an arranger, the big band and the Brazilian sax is mixed fashionably. There are only four pieces that she plays the clarinet, she plays the sax and other similar instruments in the remaining pieces, however, her clarinet is extremely outstanding. Immediately after the album was recorded, she came to Japan and I went to listen to her clarinet performance on the stage. I was impressed by her making any pieces so fresh. When she pays Benny Goodman's number, she does not make us nostalgic but she pays as if it is the number of our time. She also absorbed in the arrangement, and the three cellos added to jazz orchestra is quite effective.

If you want to listen to Anat clarinet performance more, I would recommend you “Clarinetwork / Live at The Village Vanguard” (ANZIC-1203), the live record with entire clarinet numbers at a prestigious club in New York. The most recent piece by her is “Happy Song” (ANZIC-0058) performed with Oded as was expected.

About the Author

Masamichi Okazaki

Masamichi Okazaki

Surrounded by various kinds of music from his childhood, Masamichi Okazaki joined Waseda University Modern Jazz Club. He started contributing articles to music magazines when he was a student. He covers wide range of music not only trad, modern and contemporary jazz, but also from pops to classics. He writes liner notes for CDs and LPs, and is a regular contributor to “JAZZ JAPAN,” “STEREO,” and others. He joined a big band, “Shiny Stockings,” as a saxophone player. He is a director of The Music Pen Club Japan (MPCJ).