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Japanese alto sax player Katsura Yamauchi is a unique figure in the Japanese experimental, avant-garde scene. He comes from the industrial town Beppu, far from the traditional creative centers in the bigger cities of Japan. He picked up the saxophone in the early seventies while he was in his early twenties, but only in 2002 he quit his day job and dedicated himself fully to music. He has developed a highly original approach, investigating his instrument’s nuanced sonic properties as a vehicle for transforming and mutating breaths and spare blows.

The duo Aki, with guitarist Akinori Yamasaki, often a trio with bass player Hirotoshi Yonemasu, performs Yamauchi’s original compositions, focusing on sounds moving back and forth in the pulse of time and space. Saging is the debut album of Aki, recorded in December 2018 after Yamauchi and Yamasaki completed tours in Taiwan and Japan. Yamauchi also photographed and designed the cover art.

The music of Aki moves in clear, modest, melodic lines, creating its very personal sonic universe that explores how the minimalist gestures spread gently and patiently in space, but it is devoid of sentimentalism. The interplay of Yamauchi and Yamasaki sounds totally intuitive, growing and branching naturally and finds its own melodic core in its unhurried pace. The addition of Yonemasu on three pieces adds a subtle rhythmic layer.

This kind of music certainly has some therapeutic values in our troubled times.

Eyal Hareuveni 

Katsura Yamauchi (s), Akinori Yamasaki (g), Hirotoshi Yonemasu (b)

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