Tomonao Hara – trumpet
Takuma Asada – guitar
Hiroshi Ikejiri – bass
Dennis Frehse — drums
On Hara’s latest recording, he has gone for a sleek, stripped-down sound, playing with guitar rather than piano. That change, if it is a change, allows his trumpeting a greater range of feeling and a diversity of approaches. That makes this his best quartet recording yet. It’s music that sounds effortless and yet has a rippling, focused energy.
The sound recording is extremely well done, so that you can hear the gorgeous interplay between Asada’s guitar and Hara’s trumpet. Their interaction forms the heart of the songs, and lays down an open, searching quality. The ten mainly straight-ahead tunes range from slow, stately themes to nimble post-bop. On every one, the guitar and trumpet interact with great intensity.
On “Lost Hearts of Lost Children,” Hara creates a slow, delicate pace that opens up into broader and broader meanings. Whatever was lost as the title sounds, is found in their playing. Ikejiri’s bass and Frehse’s drums fit neatly inside the melody and harmony, but as equals, intent on making the song the most potent it can be.
Hara’s original “Color As It Is” is the centerpiece of the album. The long running time gives everyone a chance to meditate, as Hara paints with a broad palette. The quartet plays with tones and moods at first, gradually drawing each other into a spiraling focus that gets tighter and hotter. It’s a multi-part song with each part different but connected and flowing.
On “Family Man,” Frehse and Ikejiri keep close to the guitar and trumpet, but also interacting with each other to create a solid, tensile layer of rhythm. Hara never breaks the flow of any of the pieces into a new form unless he wants a new feeling. Every song moves into its own direction and time, so that everyone has space to play freely.
And there’s even some humor. “Let’s Gomi Jam” cooks with a funky beat that is fluid and tight. The end of the song finds the band chanting the title. (“Gomi” means “trash” or “garbage” in Japanese). It’s hard for some serious CDs, like this one, to find time for a bit of lightness, but it sets off the intensity of the other songs and shows how laid-back and flexible everyone in the quartet is.
With six tunes from Hara, two from Asada, and one each from Frehse and Ikejiri, this is a collaboration of like minds. The calming, unhurried pace of some songs harkens back to the ECM sound, but the quartet has so much it wants to say, there’s no one single source for their approach. It’s their own. (April 14, 2017)