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Group Therapy - 2006 - "Nightmare in the College"

(64 min, Mellow)

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  New Song 1:13
2.  Melatomania 11:48
3.  Ajimarikan 11:12
4.  A Fortuneteller's Life 7:20
5.  Saniwa 9:04
6.  Return of Doyo Wide Gekijo 9:11
7.  Atlantis 14:43


Hiroyuki Kitada - guitar; guitar-synth
Hiroyuki Kanemoto - electric violin
Hidetoshi Inone - soprano sax
Keido Igarashi - trombone
Katsubiko Merimitsu - bass
Atsushi Mukai - drums 

Prolusion. "Nightmare in the College" is the third CD by Group Therapy from the Japanese city of Osaka, following "Melatomania" (2002) and "Atlantis" (1999), both of which were also brought out by Mellow Records. This is the posthumous release of the outfit's founder and principal songwriter Hiroyuki Kitada, who died of lung cancer on January 9, 2006. In particular, Hiro's testament was that the band continue their work without him.

Analysis. "Nightmare in the College" was recorded live at the Visual Arts College's music hall in Osaka on March 14, 2004. Among the seven instrumentals that form the content of this recording, the first and the last two tracks, New Song-2, Return of Doyo Wide Gekijo and Atlantis, have their studio counterparts on Group Therapy's debut outing, while Melatomania, Ajimarikan and Saniwa are from the second disc. The remaining piece, A Fortuneteller's Life, is a new, previously unavailable composition, standing right in the center of the CD's track list. The ensemble guides the listener throughout the 64 minutes of the concert without decreasing their executive fervor, their playing being both lively and stylish. What instantly comes to my mind when I listen to "Nightmare in the College" is that this live recording by Group Therapy has a massive polymorphous sound, which is not in the least inferior to the one typical of their studio creations and, at times, even surpasses that. Why? Due to the appearance of the seventh member (violinist Kanemoto), and also because Hiroyuki actively uses guitar synthesizer, as a result of which most of the 'nightmarish' tracks appear with a kind of solid keyboard pillow as their background. Only the first two compositions, New Song and Melatomania, evoke the group's debut effort and, thus, some well-known performers as well. That being said, this is music where the seriousness of Weather Report, Miles Davis or Modern Jazz Quartet adjoins the melodiousness and the accessibility of Yellow Jackets or Duke Ellington (whose Caravan can in some ways serve as a reference point, by the way). Each contains quite a few recurrent themes and is rich in traditional jazz tricks in general, the swing component being much more distinct than the rock one. I don't mean these are uninteresting compositions, not at all. They're just less progressive than the others. Anyhow, some monotony of their thematic (but not rhythmic!) lines and, hence, the predictability of most of the arrangements in general are very well compensated for by their melodic saturation, as well as by the musicians' professionalism. The interaction between the band members seems to be realized on a telepathic level, so the notorious 'good chemistry' will instantly be noticed by anyone with interest in Jazz. Ajimarikan and Saniwa, whose stylistic picture ranges from intense and driving Jazz Rock to a more atmospheric, yet still highly eventful Space Fusion, are killers, from any standpoint. Both suites are abundant in subtly-changing rhythmic patterns, a kind of jumping through non-conventional intervals and many other attributes of complex Progressive. The music is filled with a sense of drama and is often pronouncedly dark, only the brass occasionally revealing contrastingly affirmative trills. The discipline that the musicians demonstrate here is atypical of jazz groups, the tight work of the rhythm section, the directional interplay between guitar and electric violin, the refined quasi improvisations of saxophone and trumpet and the steady, logical development of the entire picture all speaking well in favor of defining this music as genuinely progressive Jazz-Fusion. Well, some 'swings' can be found on these two as well, but these originate not from Afro-American polyrhythmic structures, but from the traditions of European polyphonic music, which allow the listener to watch the movements of several layers simultaneously, which in turn is what we probably most of all value our beloved genre for. By the way, Saniwa would have well suited the concept of Doom Fusion if such had existed. On each of the remaining three pieces, A Fortuneteller's Life, Return of Doyo Wide Gekijo and Atlantis, 'transporting' aurally-mysterious Space Fusion landscapes dominate over the Jazz-Rock textures. Every note is adjusted; all rhythmic and harmonic constructions are transparent and, therefore, will be intelligible to any connoisseur of progressive music. The numerous sections of Atlantis appear to be fully organic, so that the epic's division into several conventional parts is totally justified. In the end, the last five tracks (with a playing time of just under 50 minutes) turn out to be excellent in all senses, each representing a luminous realization of what was intended during composition - a perfect combination of exquisite taste and precise execution. Hiroyuki's unique style, which combines the hardness of Rock with the flexibility of Jazz, allows me to regard him as one of the brightest phenomena to appear in the world of guitar music in the last ten years. I can only slightly regret that Group Therapy's most symphonic (and in my view best) piece, Incident in Damask, was not included in this set.

Conclusion. Having collected together his jazz experience, his vision of Rock and the traditions of intellectual progressive music along with first-rate performances by his band mates, Hiroyuki Kitada has achieved a great success with this live album, showing the entire spectrum of the creative possibilities of his brainchild, Group Therapy. This is clever, intensely designed and excellently embodied Jazz-Fusion, rich in hidden nuances, the finding and solving of which will bring great delight to any experienced listener. Much thanks and kudos goes to Mauro Moroni for having issued this disc.

VM: September 28, 2006

Related Links:

Mellow Records
Group Therapy


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