September 19, 2008 – 5:34 am

Free jazz is normally associated with Albert Ayler’s out-there music and Archie Shepp’s seminal album, Fire Music. Its origins traced to black Americans’ struggle for equal [human] rights. So what has free jazz got to do with a Japanese trio?

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At The Blue Note 1975 [no label, 3CD]

Live at Blue Note, Wilhelmshaven, Germany, May 31, 1975. An outstanding audience recording.

Yosuke Yamashita started playing jazz at 17. He spent six years from 1962 to 1967 at music school in Japan, the same time Albert Ayler was starting out with his career. When he left school, Yamashita formed his first version of the trio with drummer Takeo Moriyama and another sax player Seiichi Nakamura to record 1969’s Dancing Kojiki. According to info found on the web, this recording was done in the summer of 1969 behind barricades during the student occupation of Waseda University. It was Yamashita’s “rebel music”.

In ‘69 alone, the trio released four albums, three of them live. According to the website, the live albums were Dancing Kojiki (July 1969), Jazz In Tokyo ‘69 (August 1969) and Concert In New Jazz (September 1969), and the studio album Mina’s Second Theme (October 1969).

When jazz label Enja’s producer Horst Weber visited Japan, he was apparently impressed by the Trio and invited them to tour Europe, which they did in 1974. By this time, the Yosuke Yamashita Trio had undergone changes, Nakamura was gone and replaced by saxophonist Akira Sakata. They also had released several studio albums, Clay [June 1974], Frozen Days [September 1974] and Chiasma [June 1975]. The trio was prolific in the ’70s and early ’80s. But in 1988, Yamashita formed the Yosuke Yamashita New York Trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. He had moved on and was now playing contemporary jazz. For a full account of the trio’s recordings visit

Back to 1975, Yamashita was 33 when this show was recorded at the Blue Note in Germany. Scholleck, who shared this recording, had this to say:

“The sound is disturbingly great for a ’70s audience recording. The piano often is a little off in the mix, but otherwise I’d say it’s an A/A- (I think I like the sound of this better than of my ‘Distant Thunder’ copy).”

According to the Rough Guide To Jazz, Europeans who caught them on their first tour in 1974 called them the Kamikazi Trio for their crazed performances. Said Yamashita later, “They caught on right. We were like kamikaze. We said: OK, let’s show them our spirit. And we did just that.”

The tunes they play tonight are from that brace of albums from 1974 to 1975. The trio stay close to free jazz’s practice of the recurring theme, stubbornly holding tight until all melody is bleached away and only the starkness remains. Plenty of soloing on these tunes. Because of the way the show was miked, drummer Moriyama stands out for the ferocity of his beats. Played loud, it’s almost like he’s in the room with you. Clay on disc three is his moment. Thanks to Scholleck for sharing this rare show.

The Japanese like all students everywhere in ‘69 were having their “student demonstration time”. Thankfully, Japan handled them with a lighter touch. Otherwise, where would the music be?
- The Little Chicken

These tracks are no longer available for sharing. CD1
1. Announcement (likely Horst Weber) 01:10 (1.6MB)
2. Introductory improvisation (c.c.) 30:57
3. Chiasma (Yamashita) 14:34

1. Up-to-date (trio composition) 49:22 (cuts in)

1. Mina’s Second Theme (Yamashita) 20:03 (cuts in)
2. Gugan (Yamashita) 11:42
3. Mitochondria (Sakata) 04:47
4. announcemen YY + applause… 04:02
5. Clay (Moriyama) 12:56

Akira Sakata - alto sax, clarinet
Yosuke Yamashita - piano
Takeo Moriyama - drums

Finding the early recordings of the Yosuke Yamashita Trio is not easy. Clay was the title of their 1974 album. In the same year, they released Frozen Days. Their 1975 album, Chiasma, was released by MPS in Germany in 1976. Some of the tracks from these albums can be found at this performance. All of the trio’s ’70s albums are worth investigating. You can order some of the Trio’s albums here.

  1. 6 Responses to “FREE EXPRESSION”

  2. On this side are some tracks you can not load down.It is very sorry.When you ever had seen the Yamashita Trio live in concert you will never forget it.This Trio was like a detonation.Powerfull interaction.It was like a erruption of a vulcano.

    By Joe "The Catman" on Sep 21, 2008

  3. Sorry guys ! I´m a stupid old man.All tracks are workin.The mistake was on my side.Thank you so much for this great concert I saw the trio also in Germany it was in Berlin.I think a concert of 3 hours is like 8 hours work in a colemine.
    Thank you friends !

    By Joe "The Catman" on Sep 21, 2008

  4. Thanks for posting this-As someone somewhat unfamiliar wit this artist,I was very favorabl impressed.

    By Luis Torregrosa on Oct 9, 2008

  5. Thanks! I’ve recently been exploring free jazz (partly inspired by stuff from here) as well as Japanese music. What an interesting jam.

    By Society'sPliers on Oct 12, 2008

  6. Thanks! I’m Happy

    By FAT'N on Oct 21, 2008

  7. Hey thanks for that I am just starting to get into this and I am liking it

    By david J Carne on Nov 27, 2008

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