(Chitei Records 2016)
and 21 more musicians, with many more performers and dancers…
Shibusa Shirazu Homepage
Shibusa Shirazu has a long history of playing whatever music they feel like. And they feel like a lot of different music. On this 2016 outing, they look at Berlioz, Satie and Dvorak. But classical fans should not expect to find much classical feeling or approach, and Sh-Sh fans shouldn’t worry they’ve gone classical. The compositions here become a launching pad for Shibusa Shirazu’s eclectic, wild, and energy-laden approach to collective improvisation on a large scale.
The first song starts with voice and electric guitar, exactly what you would not expect from a Shibusa Shirazu recording, but then again, expectations are exactly what Shibusa Shirazu aims to disrupt. The song is slow, stately, mournful, at first, but then moves into the big full-band sound the band is famed for. The long, slow crescendo at the end of the song takes the vocal opening into multiple voices.
The song labeled as Satie is, of course, nothing like Satie. It is rock-like and jumpy, with just enough of the melody tossed in the middle to remind you who and what Satie might mean. The takes on Berlioz and Dvorak range through funky guitar riffs, solid Mingus-like jamming, wild outpourings of unrestrained saxophone–always with that sense of music being a great big party. The only thing to do to close a CD like this one is, apparently, a natural segue into “What a Wonderful World.”
Everything gets stretched and reformed in the hands of the band members, the rock riffs become free jazz, classical becomes 50s TV theme song, melodies become rhythms, intention becomes spontaneity—and through it all, the members are obviously having a great time. And a great time for a long time–the songs keep going until everyone is satisfied, the lead line returns for a few fast moments, and it’s over. The feeling is something like a sprint at the end of a jog.
It’s hard to tell where seriousness begins and humor ends, and/or vice versa. If the band members weren’t obviously enjoying themselves so much, it would be easier to find the serious work this music demands. In the best sense, it’s a group work, a combined set of diverse energies that somehow works. This recording is as intense and intriguing as their others, and in many ways, it’s one of their best.
As on all their recordings, and live shows, the band has a magical ability to take a tune and let everyone express themselves while somehow merging together into a united whole. The edges are pushed, the genres are mushed, the energy explodes and the whole concept of collective music gets reaffirmed. Fans of Shibusa Shirazu will find a lot to like here, since it’s a powerful expression of their anti-style. New listeners, if properly prepared, will be amazed.