LENA CIRCUS with Itaru Oki / ZANSHIN (Improvising Beings Records) - 2016




Itaru Oki: trumpet, flugelhorn
Nicolas Moulin : guitar
Antoine Letellier : guitar, sax, trumpet
Guillaume Arbonville : drums

Recorded by Ju Jacquin at Le Chalet Studio, Reims, France, February 17, 2015
Mixed by Ju Jacquin
Executive producer: Julien Palomo

improvising beings ib45



By Nicola Negri

The French label Improvising Beings continues its mission to document the best instances of today’s improvised music and to provide new venues for important historical figures of the scene. This new release is a perfect synthesis of those tendencies, as it witnesses the encounter between Itaru Oki, one of the very first exponents of free jazz in Japan, with the younger musicians of the French trio Lena Circus.

The record opens in an exploratory mood, with the trio providing a spacey backdrop for Oki’s playing – a discreet electric soundscape that highlights the trumpeter’s beautifully nuanced tone and peculiar phrasing. The following tracks alternate between this suspended mode of expression and more tightly knit exchanges, with an ear to the history of electric jazz but pointing in interesting new directions. The guitars for the most part assume the role of pure sound generators, freeing the music from defined harmonic cages, while the dialogue between trumpet and drums usually stays in a more traditional dimension, with a loose, relaxed rhythmic connection. Latellier sometimes adds his saxophone and trumpet to the mix, further enriching the sound palette.

The general contours of the performance are mainly static, built on different complementary layers with little concern for structural developments, preferring a stream of consciousness type of improvisation in which ideas flow freely. The best moments come when the dreamy atmosphere is disturbed by more intense guitar interventions, where the musicians are pulled out of their comfort zone to approach the music with fresh energy and unusual ideas, finding new inputs in the open contrasts of the different instrumental voices of the ensemble.

The last track is particularly interesting, beginning with a refreshingly simple trumpet and drums rendition of the jazz standard “Love For Sale”, soon joined by the guitars and growing into an increasingly loud, menacing electric storm that ends the album abruptly, underlining the spontaneousness and the peculiar, unresolved quality of this record.

Zanshin is a stimulating first meeting between a master of free music and three younger but already capable improvisers, that promises even more interesting further developments.

Vétéran comme parrain du free jazz nippon, ITARU OKI convoque la fée électricité au sein du groupe psyché-drone-noise LENA CIRCUS sur ce qui pourrait bien devenir le "Bitches Brew" du 21e siècle, réussissant le grand écart entre reprises de standards à la trompette (soutenus de rythmiques rock appuyées) et plages atmosphériques gorgées de saturation. Ciels d'orage pour une création à l'énergie foudroyante. (ORKHÊSTRA INTERNATIONAL)

chronique parue dans Gapplegate Music Review

One thing you can be sure of when it comes to releases on France's Improvising Beings label. You are NOT going to get anything that has been watered down. You are going to get something on the edge of modern avant improvised music. This is most certainly the case with their album by the group Leena Circus with Itaru Oki, Zanshin (Improvising Beings ib 45).

It is a dedicated quartet on a cosmic jaunt into the nether regions of space, free music that manages to be very electric and non-compromising. It is a well-rounded assemblage of Itaru Oki on trumpet and flugel, Antoine Letellier on electric guitar, sax and trumpet, Nicolas Moulin on electric guitar, and Guillaume Arbonville on drums.

Oki is the especially accomplished improvisor of the four, with excellent inventions here. But then the other three make a kind of joyful noise that gives this music a grand expanse, with the electricity of the guitars, the continual outward orbital thrust of the drums, and the sax and second trumpet effusions of Letellier when he is not playing the guitar. There are times when the band occupies a somewhat cavernous aural space and the music becomes soundscaped. And there are other times when there is a more-or-less directly dry matter-of-fact sound. But either way Lena Circus makes a focused and consistently interesting go of it all, sometimes a kind of concerted free space for Oki and caverned psychedelicized "orchestra," other times a equal four-way ensemble sound.

It is music that gains traction as you hear it more than once, like the best kind of advanced music. It got my attention more each time I heard it. And in the end I must say that I ended up admiring the music a great deal.

Try this one out. Give it your attention for at least several hearings and you will gain a good deal to interest you, I think.



released March 15, 2016



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