October 7, 2009 – 5:59 am

Four Seasons [Heart Lord Studio, 1CD]

By now, all of you following our reviews of the Japanese Heart Lord Studio label, should realize that their speciality is in capturing full-on, bare-bones virtuoso performances. Four Seasons is a kind of mirror to Shoji Hano’s Funny Rats album (2008) with free sax (pun intended) player, Peter Brotzmann.  Both albums have that spare leanness, like a sharpened fire.

Like Brotzmann, violinist Billy Bang also has a unique sound, honed by decades of anguish. As a survivor of the Vietnam War, Bang suffered from post-war trauma, and his unreconciled emotions and fears forged a passionate angry sound, that took off during the NYC free music/loft scene of the ’70s.

As Bang explained: “I was a pre-law student. They allowed me to work at a legal office… When I saw all the under the table, underhanded things that happened in the justice system, that really ran me out of society completely. I felt badly enough because I thought what I did in Vietnam was wrong that I didn’t want to join forces with anything else that represented the same unfairness, which was the justice system here in America. I don’t care what they say, it is basically how much money you have. They are right, justice is blind… so that propelled me and threw me totally into music.”

As a young man, Bang used to play bongos in the New York subway. That perhaps explains why he has loved to record with drummers such as Dennis Charles, William Hooker and Kahil El’Zabar. This new album again shows how well drummer Shoji Hano complements his fellow soloist. Both men dance and weave intricate melodic patterns with each other. The first track is lively and shows how fast they can both be. The second track is quieter, a slowed down rhythm even though Hano is just as busy in the background.

When expert koto player, Kimie Sasaki joins on the third cut, there is an added melodicism. Bang reverts to plucking his violin to complement her. But it’s on track four that the fireworks start flying. Both men pull out all the stops in what happens to be the longest cut on the album. It’s a breathtaking, magnificent piece that clocks in at over 23 mins.

The weather, as they say, is quite unpredictable. - Philip Cheah

Note: Click on the highlighted tracks to download 60-second samples.

Track 01.
Track 02.
Track 03.
Track 04.

Click here to order Billy Bang and Shoji Hano’s Four Seasons.

We hope sales will help to partly offset the cost of running our BigO site.

This CD is priced at US$15 (including airmail postage and handling. Please note that the CD will come without the jewel case to cut down costs).


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