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TRACK LIST: 1. Jack-in-the-Box 8:10 2. Fujack 3:37 3. Fireworks 8:32 4. Seascapes 6:30 5. Oceanfront 6:08 6. J&F 5:29 7. Junky Funk 3:49 8. High Energy Stuff 6:22 9. Disillusion 5:06 10. The Crack of Flaming Dawn 4:31 All tracks: by Matsui. LINE-UP: Akihiko Matsui - piano & keyboards Eiji Otogawa - saxophones Tomoya Tachikawa - basses Ittoku Shimamura - drums Yoshiko Saita - vocalizes Produced: by Matsui & Tachikawa. Recorded: at "Chapter House", Hitachi. Mixed & mastered: at "Park Side", Nerima.
Prolusion. Akihiko "Joker" Matsui is a composer and multi-instrumentalist playing keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums, and Junky Funk is just one of the five different bands led by him. Akiko calls his music Contemporary Progressive Jazz.
Synopsis. Quite a few years passed by since I listened to a truly great classically inspired Jazz-Fusion album, but I always knew that the hidden side of musical life of the land of the rising sun is rich in the genuinely serious manifestations of progressive music. Thankfully, here is "Jack-in-the-Box", a glorious masterpiece of progressive Jazz. Despite the fact that the music presented on this album is outstandingly original and, overall, incomparable with anything, I am going to use some comparisons in this review. Indeed, I think I must do it, inasmuch as the creation of this Japanese musician is so far unknown to most, if not all, of the 'classic' connoisseurs of Jazz-Fusion, not to mention all the other kinds of Prog-lovers, though of course, I imply only the most profound of them, and by no means those into Neo. There are two categories of compositions on the 10-track "Jack-in-the-Box", and all four of those featuring female vocalizes: Fujack, Seascapes, Oceanfront, and The Crack of Flaming Down (2, 4, 5, & 10) differ from the others by a few significant aspects. Each of these pieces is about Classic Jazz-Fusion, and relative comparisons between them and those on Return To Forever's first two albums that feature Flora Purim are possible. The music here is above all characterized by contrasts between the fast solos of either keyboards (acoustic and electric piano and synthesizer) or saxophone and the basic arrangements that are mostly mid-tempo. But while these compositions are on the whole a bit quieter than the others, the constant development of arrangements and the continuous use of highly complex meters are as typical for them as for the entire album. With the exception of the album's title-track (7) where Akihiko plays synthesizers, each of the other of the remaining compositions features him playing exclusively an acoustic piano, and his solos on this instrument are just fantastic and by all the possible and impossible means. All of the musicians on the album are rare dubs though, and the constantly developing interplay between the parts of piano and those of sax, bass, and drums is the central hallmark of the music of Junky Funk. By all the performance aspects, the pieces that form the predominant stylistics of the album (1, 3, & 6 to 9: see track list above) are on par with those on the best (IMHO) Return To Forever albums "Where Have I Known You Before?" and "No Mystery", but compositionally, they're more complex and intricate than everything that I've ever heard within the framework of Jazz-Fusion. In fact, all of them represent the works of Jazz Classical Music performed by dint of Progressive Rock rather than anything else. This music, with lots of different and always intriguing events kaleidoscopically changing each other, is very picturesque and imaginative, and its high intensiveness and energy are perceptible almost physically. Honest! This is assuredly not your typical Jazz-Fusion, but something that will be beyond your imagination until you hear it with your own ears and perceive it by your own mind through your own vision of things.
Conclusion. Matsui is a brilliant composer and is certainly one of the best keyboard players in the history of Jazz-Fusion, and I think it's just impossible for anyone who is really into (real!) progressive music not to be amazed with such a unique, outstandingly interesting and eventful music as is presented on "Jack-in-the-Box".
VM: July 3, 2003
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