(Altered music inc. Japan, 2015)
Osamu Koike小池修 —tenor saxophone
Makoto Aoyagi青柳誠— piano, rhodes
Koichi Osamu納浩一— acoustic bass, electric bass
Masahiko Osaka大坂昌彦— drums
Muscular, full-toned jazz is rather a rare style these days, and when it’s played with such resolve and sense of fun, it is even rarer. EQ, though, has been making straight-on, soul-satisfying jazz for a long time. This release finds them at the top of their game. All four musicians play all over Japan on such a regular basis, it’s hard to imagine how they found time to get into the studio.
All four contribute tunes to the line-up, showing just how much respect and interaction they have for and with each other, but also showing how in-sync they are. It’s hard to say who wrote which, since they all contribute to each so strongly and completely.
While the quartet knows how to have fun, watch the way Koike’s saxophone works with the Rhodes piano sound of Aoyagi on “Big Slop,” or the rollicking way everyone digs into the groove on “Vital Area,” the quartet also knows how to slow it down on tunes like “Kotodama,” (which translates to something like the “spirit inside words”) with a lot of reflective, calm interplay, as if they are bringing out the spirit inside the melodies.
“Legendary Them part 1” is a hard-driving post-bop number with plenty of full-on playing from Osamu and Osaka, who stay deep into their full rhythmic intensity. “Legendary Them part 2” is just as intense but at half the tempo, digging into each note, each beat with passion. Koike slathers the rich undercurrents with rich sax work. His tone fits on top nice and tight.
The quartet’s full-on sound never slows down. Each cut is inventive, contemporary jazz. They don’t add frills, just deeply soulful playing, and work each composition to its fullest. Light to the right degree at times, without taking themselves too seriously, they take the music incredibly seriously. This is a quartet to hear and hear again.