Saxophonist David Murray joins pianist Aki Takase to make this contemporary Jazz album that grabbed me immediately on first listen. With just the two of them playing, they create a big and rich sound. They also bounce around different sub-genres of Jazz, with mainly Free Jazz being the dominate umbrella they play under. Their chemistry is fantastic, easily trading ideas with each other throughout the album. Murray’s saxophone playing is emotive and imaginative, quick to spew out a barrage of notes if need be. Takase’s piano playing is more subdued, but also not afraid to take wild tangents. Together their sound is much more than the sum of it’s parts, it feels like a full band is playing.
They waste no time jumping straight into it with Cherry – Sakura, a moody and blue song featuring Takase’s flowing piano and Murray’s erratic sax. They trade solo for solo, both very sprawling and free flowing. When they reunite in the end it’s a magical moment, emphasizing the depth of sound they’re able to accomplish with just two instruments. Takase’s piano is the one that creates this warm, rich sound with her heavy use of the sustain pedal. Any sense of form is abandoned with the follow up A Very Long Letter, a completely schizophrenic Free Jazz piece. Slowly though some concrete ideas are formed, with a quick back and forth near the end. Bizarrely they go to the complete opposite end of the spectrum with Let’s Cool One, a song originally recorded by Thelonious Monk.
To A.P. Kern is a powerful, moving piece, with Murray’s Sax taking the center stage and sounding as intimate as possible. The title is a reference to Alexander Pushkin’s love poem to Anna Petrovna Kern, and reading that while listening to the song makes it all the more moving. Nobuko is an equally beautiful song, this time with Takase’s piano being the more emotionally impactful. A Long March to Freedom ends the album in grand fashion, more straightforward than their free flowing songs, but it remains perfectly melancholy and rich. Cherry Sakura is an amazing album, one that I would recommend even to people who get turned off by Free Jazz.