GIG: WPAC Theatre, 3pm, October 30
Aaron Choulai piano, Yoshimoto Akihiro tenor sax, Komano Itsumi trombone, Sugawa Takashi bass, Tanaka Noritaka drums.
IT RARELY works to arrive late at a gig. And it is equally not a great idea to leave a concert halfway through in order to hear something else. But at festivals clashes often occur, so these less-than-ideal late arrivals and early departures are inevitable. In this case I was late because, to quote former police comissioner Christine Nixon, “I had to eat”. It was a pity because Sisia Natuna was into its third piece, Iriguchi, when I arrived, having missed Beer Gardener and Korema. After listening for a few minutes I was wishing I’d been there earlier.
The quintet’s playing was complex and had a relentless quality to it in the next piece, ATO 23:5. The sax and ‘bone contributions were strong and independent in what seemed to be a musical saga or journey. Choulai pointed out that Komano Itsumi was playing despite the pain she was experiencing from a slipped disk — a heroic effort.
In the final piece, Yokka Yoi, which Choulai said could be roughly translated as a four-day hangover, there were powerful harmonies and rhythms and plenty of expression despite the limited variation in dynamics. I was trying to work out whether I could pick up distinctively Japanese aspects to this group’s playing, but if there were any they eluded me. Listeners familiar with Japanese music would have done better, no doubt. The empathy between Sugawa Takashi on bass and Tanaka Noritaka on drums was evident.
I would have been happy for the set to be extended — it was full of interest.
I first saw Aaron Choulai in the Commercial Hotel many years ago. He was playing keyboards with Blues Before Sunrise. Born in Papua New Guinea, the pianist/composer has always been an interesting, flamboyant character. He has spent the past two years in Japan, exploring the application of Japanese aesthetics to music. In this outing, clad in an informal sports shirt that seemed to contrast sharply with the more formal dress of the other band members, the pianist seemed at home among some of Japan’s talented young musicians.