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2021-04-02

NAOKO SAKATA - Dancing Spirits

Anna von Hausswolff knows best.

My suggestion is that you just take that as a given fact and trust her when her label Pomperipossa Records releases an album of pure piano improvisations. It's not that have too many enlightening words to say about what Naoko Sakata does on this record anyway.


NAOKO SAKATA - Dancing Spirits (golden vinyl LP) (2021)

During the first two (of seven) improvisations which the Japanese musician performed inside a church in Gothenburg I sometimes find myself waiting for Tori Amos' vocals to kick in, which in itself is already one of the biggest compliments I can give to a piano player.
There are indeed a lot of similarities to Tori in tone and melody surfacing everywhere in the highly dramatic flow of the free-form pieces.

Later a more eerie darkness creeps into the movements, partly akin to Anna's droning organ atmospheres, but delivered with the nightmarish touch of Diamanda Galas and the brutal attacks of Sašo Vollmaier on his "Kind of Laibach", combined or alternating with ever present light speed arpeggios sparkling into every conceivable direction.

Naoko Sakata is without a doubt a wunderkind with a mind-melting technique, who can immediately express every thought and feeling she has with her fingertips in a way which lets average mortal spectators drop their jaws on the floor.
Her background is obviously classical, but it's pretty sure to assume that she is no stranger to keys in jazz, rock or whatever. The genre-defying nature of her performance at least strongly suggests that.

Yet even though she has - and uses - major league technical chops, Sakata seems less concerned with showing off than other (both amazing, don't get me wrong!) contemporary players like Hiromi Uehara or Jordan Rudess tend to do from time to time.
The virtuosity just seems to be something that happens on the way, while a feeling or story is explored. In the end she really puts her everything into the emotion. This can't be proven better than by the utter stunning beauty of "Improvisation 7", which gives me vibes of Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" era quintet, above all makes me want to start the whole wonderful experience of immersing in this album again.

The only thing about this release which leaves something to be desired is the pressing quality of the hand-numbered golden vinyl edition. It looks great, but it really could use a bit less surface noises. Not the first Pomperipossa release where I had issues with that...


You can't kill the magic of the music though.

So overall "Dancing Spirits" still earns my full recommendation. It's just amazing. 




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