Apr 29, 2010

Small gig in Yokohama

In the beginning, Makigami declared that this time he might sing less than usual. That means this will be night of jam and improvisation. However, most of the audience anticipated that. Because the place, Airegin in Yokohama, is jazz club famous for its policy. Specialized in real jazz and improvised music, the venue has been around for over 20 years. The band choosed the place and that means something special, unusual thing would happen.

The band went to the stage and while Makigami did preamble, all of sudden Shimizu battered a mouthpiece of his bass clarinet with his fingers and made a series of crackling sounds. It was a signal of starting to play and the band did a long improvisation. It continued over 20 minutes. Fierce, strong performance with various drum beats.

Next they did an instant composition. Mita showed some motif and the band developed New Orlean-ish, Allen Toussaints-like song from it. Makigami also made up a lyrics and sing it. After that, the band went back into long improvisation. Then Sakaide teased with the opening phrase of "Beto Beto" on his bass and the members quickly reacted. It became extended performance than usual, 15 minutes long, including Makigami's cornet solo. The 1st set ended with it.

It seemed to me that most of the attendees was regulars and expected something different that night. But of course there was exceptions.

In front of the stage, there was a little girl escorted by her parents. Makigami did notice and chatted with them in the intermission. Dad told him that his daughter's favorite tune was "At the End of the 20th Century" and Makigami replied they'll do the song later. At that point, the band did only one composition ("Beto Beto") and that was probably out of the expectation for them.

The 2nd set started with long improvisation, too. After that, Mita talked about one of his old composition, entitled "The Morning too chilling". He said it was still in progress and showed the main riff. Having been explained the chord progression, rhythm pattern and some embellishments, the band picked them and worked together on stage. It was curious experience. I felt like witnessing their rehearsal. The band grasped it quickly and started playing. Makigami was watching Mita hummed the melody, then suddenly shouted "I got it! It's Rokyoku!" and started singing exaggerated Rokyoku-like phrases. Rokyoku is a genre of the traditional Japanese narrative singing, used to be popular in 1920-30s but now kinda obsolete. The audience cheered.

Hitofushi Taro - Rokyoku Komoriuta (Rokyoku The Lullaby) in 1990. Big hit of 1963, sold over two million and still sells 20,000 copies a year.

After another improvised piece, the band launched "Sun Ra is the Pianist". It also became extended performance. In its introduction, Makigami took long cornet solo again. In outro, the band chanted the main melody, and started to march among the audience. I was quite surprised because I saw them doing thing like that for the first time. It's more like Sun Ra! Everybody in the audience was clapping their hands with the tune and I thought it's nice way to closing the set. But it was not. They went back to the stage and did "At the End of the 20th Century". Makigami fulfilled the promise with the family, and that's how the main set ended.

At encore, Makigami asked the audience some request first. Someone replied "Nioi" from "Uwasa No Jinrui", and other cited "Chinatown in San Francisco" from Makigami's first solo, "Minzoku No Saiten". After showing excerpts of those songs, the band played "Mottainai Hanashi" from the "Hanauta Hajime" album.

After the performance, the family looked quite happy. They chatted with Makigami again and thanked him.

Hikashu has been always eager to play improvisation in concert but usually they devoted themselves to do that between compositions and certainly do not do that long. So it's very rare case. Their improvisation has some "quality", which I cannot explain properly, but I can clearly say I like it very much. They always give us something interesting and I confirmed it that night again. Hopefully they'll do small gigs again in future.

Encore set on April 24, 2010 at Airgin in Yokohama. Shooted by the club's owner, Mr. Umemoto. Note at 4:59, Shimizu, the pianist, went back into the verse of "Mottainai Hanashi" from the bridge at unusual timing on purpose. The other members showed some surprise but kept in time.

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