This month, Alexei Aigui, a prominent violinist and composer from Moscow, has spent a few weeks in Japan. And he has proved himself again being an energetic improviser.
Most of the dates he played with a fellow violinist Ohta Keisuke, but only one day, he sat in the two separate gigs of Hikashu which took place in Yokohama and Tokyo. Actually, they have played together before -- in 2011 and 2012 -- so this is the third time for them, and the first time ever in Japan (the former two occasions were held at the prestigious DOM Cultural Center of Moscow). Needless to say, his playing was a full of energy, and well-blended with the band's sound overall.
The afternoon show was held at a place called Yokohama News Harbor. Being contrary to its name, it's not a harbor - even not being seaside. The place is located a business district of Yokohama, the city with long history and has been known as "the Birthplace of Jazz in Japan." (there's no evidence, of course). Anyway, it is a neat, high-ceiling, 200-seat hall, occupied the entire ground floor of an office building, which is actually the property of a local TV station. Their show was started at 16:00, and the place was packed.
The show was organized as a part of the event called Yokohama Jazz Promenade, which could be described as "a just another conservative jazz festival" in general. So Hikashu was quite an anomaly. The people gathered expecting some fine, smooth music, and what the band including Mr. Aigui started to supply was, as usual, collective improvisation. In fact, their performance alienated many of the audience, and some of them actually fled soon. What a pity. May those poor souls retrieve their precious inner-peace.
Anyway, the highlight of the set was a short but impressive duo performance of Aigui and the pianist Shimizu Kazuto. Shimizu took a bit different approach: He started with a bouncy, highly rhythmical phrases, like boogie-woogie, and Aigui immediately followed. Soon the things were getting abstact - They went out to do some verse exchanges. Shimizu trot out a succession of short fragments in different tempi, and Aigui responded beautifully. It was quite splendid - so many colors and textures of sounds, like a kaleidoscope.
After the set, soon they departed Yokohama, heading for Shibuya, which is one of the busiest districts in Tokyo. It takes an hour by train, although they moved by road. It was a middle of consecutive holidays so roads tend to be crowded. Fortunately, they didn't late.
The late show was held at La Mama, a small but established venue located in Shibuya. The gig was started with a duo of Mr. Aigui and the drummer Sato Masaharu. During a lengthy dialogue via instruments, other members went on bandstand one by one, each started to play, then things were getting bigger and bigger. Finally reaching a high point, and everybody swiftly moved into the opening number, Wave the Brush, Mr. Beyond.
Throughout this set, Mr. Aigui was appointed as a featured soloist. He took his duty and acted accordingly. Actually, his play was quite accomplished, indeed. They were really together, and clearly demonstrated that there's no barrier in music if things are appropriate.
Overall, it was a memorable experience, two wonderful sets in a row. Fortunately, Mr. Aigui plans to visit Japan again, possibly next spring. So it's highly likely that the reunion of him and the band will take place again pretty soon, and we all surely look forward to the day.