From Japan, the revival of classic progressive jazz-rock continues, in the form of the virtuoso KBB. This is the band’s second release. I have not heard the first.
KBB is centered around the marvelous and versatile playing of violinist Akihisa Tsuboy, who also plays Cellolin and Guitars. The band is rounded out by Toshimitsu Takahashi on Keyboards, Dani on Bass and Guitars, and Shirou Sugano on Drums.
Though feisty and bombastic in places, KBB play a very melodic and accessible form of jazz-rock which borrow from a diversity of folk-influences as well as the nebulous school of jazz-fusion. This is music that you can listen to loud in the foreground as singular entertainment, or you could put the volume low and use it as work music in the background.
Naturally, the first thing that comes to mind is Mahavishnu Orchestra when listening to the music. But what I like the most about this is the many forms of expression the music takes and the dynamics of the listening experience. This is because the violin trades with the guitar many times, there is a dense use of keyboards, and the band utilizes many time signatures within a song to give the listener a variety of experiences.
“Discontinuous Spiral” begins things in lively fashion, with passages that hint at Gaelic and American fiddle music without relinquishing the lifeblood of a jazz-rock fusion style. “Kraken's Brain is Blasting” follows with a blistering interplay of guitar and violin. The song changes course halfway through and slides into textured spacey sonics before returning to rousing conclusion. “Horobi no Kawa” is very mellow and incorporates melodic bass as a lead, and violin and keyboard embellishments. Slow, cool jazz with notable drumming slowly builds to a vibrant mid-tempo conclusion.
“Back Side Edge” opens with some funky bass, then skips along briskly with Canterbury-influenced synth, organ and piano. We are more than half-way through the disk and there is not a weak moment.
“Slave Nature” follows with a few power chords and the violin returns in it’s majestic grandeur. There are several abrupt exchanges with electric piano. KBB obviously knows its influences, playing them to brilliant perfection, while remaining original about the arrangements.
“I am not here” and “Shironiji” close things without a hitch. Both are long songs and provides the band the time to explore all the possibilities of their musical virtuosity. At times, the music seems redundant but never boring. “Shironiji” is particularly memorable with a melodic, intensifying ascension that reminds me of Shadowfax’s first album and the powerful conclusion of “Song for my Brother”.
“Four Corner’s Sky” is progressive rock in all its glory. Though exceptionally jazzy in style, the album reflects all that is good in the genre with its complex, adventurous, tightly-knit, and energetic execution. And while I’m not a great fan of many of the Japanese progressive rock bands, I have to admit to the country’s importance in keeping the music alive in the 80s and to it’s resurgence in the 90s.