Review Summary: A groovy, instrumental modern jazz classic from a fully acoustic quartet.
If you want to get to know Indigo Jam Unit, you really only have to check one track. Listen to Pirates
, the first track of their 2008 release of the same name. It sums up everything they are about. A nicely creaky upright bass lays down a swinging groove. Jazzy drumming is introduced a few bars in, joined shortly by percussion (bongos?) a few bars later. To top it all off, a snarky, unconcerned piano line weaves in and out of sync. The track builds on this idea, exploring its possibilities and growing wilder and louder towards the end, before one final drum barrage swells and reintroduces the opening motif and it slowly fades out. There you have it.
Osaka’s very own jazz quartet started in 2005 as a trio, with Yoshichika Tarue on piano, Katsuhiko Sasai on double bass and Isao Wasano on drums and percussion. After several live concerts, their Basis Records producer made a line-up suggestion, which proved to be instrumental in giving them their unique identity. He introduced Takehiro Shimizu to the band, whose rock and pop oriented drum style contrasted nicely with Wasano’s loose, jazzy grooves. The trio became a quartet and with this line-up an incredibly prolific decade began, during which the band would release all their 11 albums in just over 9 years.
’ sound is exemplary for what the band stands for. Everything is recorded live in the studio, in one take, without manipulation or overdubbing. This organic approach makes the music feel alive and brimming with energy. Melodically, the piano plays the most important role, but the double bass takes centre stage more often than not and the many different drum and percussion instruments make for a varied and colourful listen. The aforementioned contrast in drum approaches really works for them, making the grooves feel even more swinging then they already were.
Like all of Indigo Jam Unit’s albums, energy levels vary greatly between tracks. There are several highly energetic beasts such as the title track, Rumble
with its sharp drum fills and propulsive bass line, and Trailer
which bounces and rolls along with the percussionists going crazy, especially during the drum roll halfway through which introduces a swinging climax where the piano goes into a prolonged solo. On the other hand there are moments of calm, with Arctic Circle
and its frosted, repeating piano pattern and Himawari
with soft egg shaker set off against gorgeously controlled jazzy fills. Some tracks switch drastically halfway through, such as Raindrop
, which gradually grows from a soft patter into a true storm which closes off the album.
Pirates is a great showcase of what this amazing collective is capable of. If you like this, there are ten albums just like it waiting to be discovered.