«Flying Heart» may be the most ECM-ish release in the extensive catalog of the Portuguese label Clean Feed, usually associated with cutting-edge free jazz from both sides of the Atlantic. This release features the debut album of the Berlin-based trio KOKOTOB – first KO goes for Japanese, classically-trained vibraphonist and marimba player Taiko Saito, the second KO for German pianist Niko Meinhold and TOB for fellow-German clarinetist Tobias Schirmer.
Saito is an interpreter of the music of contemporary composer Sofia Gubaidulina and has collaborated with guitarist-daxophone player Kazuhisa Uchihashi. She has co-founded the duo KOKO with Meinhold, inspired by the classic ECM duo album «Crystal Silence» (1973) of Chick Corea and Gary Burton. KOKO released a self titled album in 2006 (Pirouet Records) and «Live in Bogotá» in 2014 (Yoriemusic Records). The addition of Schirmer opened new possibilities and enriched the chamber jazz dynamics of KOKO with a more experimental approach.
KOKOTOB disciplined yet open interplay blurs the distinction between the intricate, composed themes and the instantaneously improvised parts. The trio manages to form a delicate, attentive balance between these two approaches and a similar equilibrium between the three musicians, all contributed compositions for «Flying Heart». The reserved, contemplative interplay of KOKOTOB often sound as referencing the chamber one of Jimmy Giuffre Trio, mainly due to the phrasing of Schirmer.
«Flying Heart» program offers the rich vocabularies of the three musicians and KOKOTOB diverse dynamics. Pieces like «Wellen» sound as if the trio adapts a lyrical abstraction of Steve Reich minimalism and «Feldmännchen» deepens this vein even further with a nod to Morton Feldman’s school of Minimalism. «Origami Im Görlitzer Park» and «5 Viertel» are more meditative but with an elusive, unsettling essence. Saito’s marimba adds a dreamy touch to the playful melody of «Komodo No Kodomo». «Bikkuri» and «Snow Moon Flower» are dissonant, open improvisations. «Etude In Eb» and «Korokoro» revolve around a tight rhythmic module, built carefully by all three musicians.
KOKOTOB version of chamber jazz calls for many more, future chapters.
Taiko Saito (mar, vib), Niko Meinhold (p), Tobias Schirmer (cl, bcl)