is it the best jazz record from japan, as the french-born english disc jockey, record label owner and music collector gilles peterson once assumed? or is it maybe the best jazz record of all jazz records?
well, everybody needs to decide by himself and has to listen to “watabase”, the second solo piano album of the japanese jazz pianist fumio itabashi, that was originally released in 1982.
tokyo based mule music unearth it, remastered the original recordings and brings it back to the global stores in order to seduce all music lovers that embrace notes who come straight from the heart and soul.
while diving deep into the seven compositions on “watarese”, any sensible listener finds out, that the instrumental piano pieces are somehow soulfully connected to what keith jarret plays on his legendary “the köln concert” live album for the munich based ecm record company.
like jarret, itabashi does not play his notes academic. he let them fly, gives them some kind a life of their own, hits the piano keys deeply emotional and injects his compositions and interpretations some kind of nervous human soul.
in terms of style some call his “watarase” recordings post-bop, others contemporary jazz. none of such definitions fit really, as all is just that kind of agitating jazz that melts spirituality with humanity. three tunes, the epic “someday my prince will come” as well as “msunduza” and “i can’t get started”, are interpretations of compositions by the us-american movie score pioneer frank churchill, south african pianist dollar brand and russian-american composer and songwriter vernon duke.
all other four compositions been written and recorded by the 1949 born itabashi who started to play the piano when he was eight years old. while studying at the tokyo based kunitachi college of music, he fell in love with jazz.
his love was so deep, that he starts to work in the 1970’s with such legendary japanese jazz musicians like trumpet player terumasa hino, drummer takeo moriyama and saxophonist sadao watanabe.
till today fumio itabashi is a vital part of the japanese jazz culture as a live performer and film score composer. those who want to see how he makes love with his piano should check the world wide web for the french documentary “jazzed out”, that captured his unique way of playing in one episode.
but as music is always firstly for the ears, and not for the eyes, this little letter in-front of you would rather like to recommend to play the “watarase” recordings loud to get hooked by the highly infectious piano gems that have been recorded at nippon columbia 1st studio in tokyo on 12th and 13th of octo-ber 1981.
they will haunt you. they will come for good. and they will force you to be a good friend with the repeat button – whatever medium you chose to surrender to the piano jazz music of fumio itabashi.