From his birth in Hiroshima mere months before the bomb to his periodic encounters with the likes of Bill Lawell and DJ Krush, Akira Sakata has displayed a talent for escaping potentially dire circumstances intact. But here he does more than escape dishonor, as he has when playing with the aforementioned musicians, or sound comparatively exalted in the company of underachieving heavies like Ronald Shannon Jackson and Pete Cosey. Instead, Sakata has chosen two significantly younger sidemen and restricted his approach in a way that has concentrated the virtues of his music.
For a start, Sakata sticks to alto saxophone throughout. There are no synths, no clarinet, no gruffly sung Japanese folk songs. He tends to play near the bottom of the horn’s range, so that the unreeling figures that open “”In Case, Let’s Go To Galaxy” sound broad and muscular enough to have come out of a tenor, but he achieves this without giving up the diamond-cutting sharpness that is unique to the alto. Sakata’s extrapolations on that track have a tumbling intensity and paradoxically serene ecstasy that brings to mind Coltrane c. Interstellar Space, a notion reinforced by the full and unremitting tumult whipped up by drummer Chris Corsano. His partner in Chikamorachi is double bassist Darin Gray, whose playing sounds highly poised and equally apposite during his own duet with Sakata. There’s an attunement here that goes beyond the fact that the three men have been playing together for a while, usually with Jim O’Rourke present on guitar (O’Rourke, Gray and Corsano have also made a record together as Osorezan).
O’Rourke confines himself to work behind the board and Corsano and Gray likewise restrict themselves, keeping their forays into noise and rock out of this music. This discipline helps Sakata get to a fundamental essence here, plumbing deep veins of longing, lyricism, energy and catharsis without lapsing into macho bluster. Instead, the music glides lightly, giving off a sense of unfettered flow even in its most intense and tangled passages.