Reviews – The Major


Nobuyasu Furuya is a relatively little-known Japanese reedman who lives in Lisbon, where he’s been making associations with some of the city’s finest improvisers. Following his 2009 debut on Clean Feed (Bendowa, with bassist Hernâni Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini) he’s back with The Major, joined by the RED Trio (Faustino, Ferrandini and pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro) and trombonist Eduardo Lála in six original compositions ranging from pulpit-pounding to cagy sonic exploration. On tenor, Furuya’s playing is reminiscent of Peter Brötzmann and Mototeru Takagi, and the RED Trio is akin to a contemporary version of ARC or a free-improv version of the Garland / Chambers / Taylor rhythm section. They’re surely one of the most cohesive improvising trios in modern music, and collaborations with figures like John Butcher, Nate Wooley and now Furuya are extra icing on the cake. The three build up a detailed storm behind his gruff, burnished shouts and Lála’s tailgate on “Jap Agitator Caught Again”, bashing and whacking brush alongside the leader’s manic sear. Opening the flip side, “Where Are the Brothers and Sisters?” has a chunky ragtime to no-time rhythmic bash, with Lála’s Rudd-like slushy chortle sailing on the pianist’s eddies. The trombonist is an impressive member of the front line, belting out jovial and brusque commentary. The Major is an enjoyable and frequently compelling session with strong, engaging interplay and flashes of studied seamlessness. What more could one ask for from a second date?

Clifford Allen



Nobuyasu Furuya brings to the table a big tenor sound in the tradition of the new thing players of the ’60s without sounding quite like any one of them. His recent quintet LP The Major (No Business LP44) brings him together with some choice European players for a set of exuberant and raucous free improvisation of the old school, meaning that the music reminds of the Archie Shepp ensembles of the classic phase, the NY Contemporary Five, the NY Art conflagration, later Trane, Sonny Simmons, etc., without going the imitation route.

It’s some delectably over-the-top testifying going on. He is joined by Rodrigo Pinheiro at the piano, Eduardo Lala on trombone, Hernani Faustino on the contrabass and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums. All have the new thing down and have developed their own voice on their respective instruments.

The collective ensemble improvisations here tend to be the most gratifying and exciting to me, and that’s the emphasis at any rate. We also hear Nobuyasu’s flute and clarinet as well, and he does a good job bringing out color and fleetness on the flute, texture and grit on the clarinet.

If you like the flat-out madness of the best classic avant jazz, this one will put you in a fine frame of mind. It did that for me. Gregory Applegate Edwards



Japanese born reedman Nobuyasu Furuya splits his time between his native country and Portugal, where The Majorwas captured. Furuya first came to prominence in the free jazz big band, Shibusa-Shirazu Orchestra, before moving to Lisbon, where he recorded two previous sets with musicians from his current band: the well-receivedBendowa (Clean Feed, 2009) and Stunde Null (Chitei, 2010). Furuya takes an unusual approach. The sleeve of this limited edition LP states both that all tracks were composed and conducted by Furuya, and that all tracks were performed and improvised by all five participants. The six cuts play this out by displaying compositional intent in terms of dynamics and arrangement, but without written thematic material.

Furuya’s quintet includes four Portuguese musicians, including the members of the acclaimed Red Trio—pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernani Faustino, and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini—and joined here by trombonist Eduardo Lala. Furuya proves an exciting improviser with energy, passion, and technique to spare, especially on tenor saxophone. The four Portuguese musicians skillfully follow Furuya’s lead, with Lala’s blustery trombone tracing a broad impasto around the principal’s statements. The Major does not have the space and open egalitarian structures of the Red Trio discs, heard to good effect on Empire (No Business, 2011), their collaboration with English saxophonist John Butcher. Faustino and Ferrandini acquit themselves well, but more in the guise of a conventional rhythm section, while Pinheiro remains largely submerged within the ensemble cut and thrust until the second side.

There is, however, much that merits attention. “Jap Agitator Caught Again” forms a swirling blistering anthem loosely built around tonal centers with the horns trading conversational lines. “D.O.O. (Development of Our Own)/ Declaration From Detroit” presents unfettered expression by tenor first, then trombone and finally piano, each in the company of roiling bass and drums, book-ended by two explosive group outbursts. Pinheiro shines on “When No Saints Go Marching In,” rubbing the strings and adding off kilter percussive effects, after some purposeful interaction between the leader’s light airy clarinet and Faustino’s dancing bass. But the concluding “To The Valley Of Paradise” with its intriguing timbral interplay of dampened piano keys, random scrapes and saxophone squeals, convinces most, becoming increasingly spirited, and acting as a dashing counterpart to the opener. While the disc amply showcases Furuya’s conception, this author can’t help think that it might have been more compelling if everyone had been left more to their own devices.               John Sharpe



Il quintetto del sassofonista giapponese Nobuyasu Furuya è chiaramente formato da due entità distinte e distinguibili. Da una parte la sezione ritmica con il pianoforte di Rodrigo Pinheiro, un piano trio (Red Trio il suo nome) autonomo con importanti registrazioni all’attivo, nelle quali è comunque norma la presenza di un ospite di lusso. Dall’altra i due fiati solisti abituati a frequenti partecipazioni, ad interscambi e alla disciplina delle grandi orchestre.

Nel corso della registrazione le due entità si incrociano, si sfiorano, si combinano, si provocano ma non sempre l’impressione è quella di un amalgama perfetto, di una simbiosi raggiunta concerto dopo concerto, quanto piuttosto di una sorta di estemporaneità espressiva. Fermo restando che The Major è un ottimo disco, vigoroso, variegato nella sua ricerca di un compromesso possibile tra melodia e libera improvvisazione, ottimamente suonato, ruvido il giusto, ricco di energia contagiosa.

Il tenore di Furuya ricorda a tratti la lacerante urgenza ayleriana con scarti di composta dolcezza, il trombone di Lala funge da battitore libero melodico e aggressivo in stimolante contrapposizione con il mood del brano di turno, il Red Trio si muove tra swing increspato, improvvise accelerazioni, misurate dissonanze.

Tra le sei tracce da segnalare “Jap Agitator Caught Again,” brano innodico, dagli impasti timbrici grassi e ridondanti e dal crescendo irresistibile, “D.O.O /Declaration from Detroit,” una libera improvvisazione collettiva furiosa e astratta, “When No Saints Go Marching In” accerchiamento del tema in stile mingusiano con le cinque voci ben distinte che sembrano finalmente trovare una magica armonia.

Vicenzo Roggero




Já há algum tempo regressado ao Japão, o saxofonista tenor, clarinetista baixo e flautista Nobuyasu Furuya continua a apostar em disco na companhia de músicos portugueses. São eles neste novo “The Major”, tal como em parte do anterior “Stunde Null”, os três elementos do Red Trio, designadamente Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernâni Faustino (contrabaixo) e Gabriel Ferrandini (bateria), mais o trombonista Eduardo Lála. Variando em intensidade, que não na tensa densidade da música, esta edição em vinil será, entre a ainda curta discografia do nipónico, aquela que mais abraça a tradição original do free jazz. O que quer dizer que, aqui, Furuya percorre mais os caminhos de Archie Shepp do que os de Peter Brotzmann, a sua outra referência maior. Talvez porque o factor jazz (o “drive”, e até o “swing”, do jazz) está mais presente do que na habitual produção do Red Trio, temos um Pinheiro particularmente monkiano, um Faustino que chega a entrar por abordagens “walking bass” e um Ferrandini especialmente focado na elaboração de métricas. Quanto a Lála, se dúvidas ainda houvesse quanto ao grande músico que é, fica bem exposta a sua maioridade. Rui Eduardo Paes



Nobuyasu Furuya has the fire of free jazz burning in his belly. Since his impressive debut as a leader in 2009, he’s had a reputation as a brash, passionate improviser with a sound that invokes the cathartic heat of the original movement. As with any purgative art, self-indulgence is a risk that must be managed in free jazz. Raw emotion may be what is most plainly conveyed through music, but that doesn’t mean that communication is an easy task. It’s a caveat Furuya always keeps in the back of his mind. You only need to be swept into the spiritual jazz surge of “Jap Agitator Caught Again” to realize that he’s tapping into some cosmic nerve, something we all can feel on some level.

Part of Furuya’s success with this music is his close relationship with members of RED Trio, all of whom are present in his quintet. They’ve staked out their own idiosyncratic corner of the piano trio canon, and with trombonist Eduardo Lála, they form the flexible, responsive infrastructure that bolsters Furuya’s fiery vision. But these are free spirits, remember, and if there’s a problem with The Major, it arises when Furuya attempts to orchestrate structure or intensity, forcing things like breaks or crescendos instead of letting them naturally unfold. “D.O.O./Declaration from Detroit” is perhaps the biggest victim of this approach, the kind of semi-coordinated, unsubtle blowfest that reminds me of Zorn’s weaker work, and is normally below these guys. It’s a gamble that does have its pay-offs, however, most notably in the raging, dissonant swagger of “Where are the Brother and Sisters?”, which actually finds drummer Ferrandini and bassist Faustino swinging, and hard.

By the final two cuts, the group has settled in comfortably, the three-part conversation between Furuya, Faustino and Lála at the beginning of “When No Saints Go Marching In” a particular highlight.  As the final track closes on a deep, wavering piano chord, it’s hard to imagine ever growing tired of these musicians. They’ve come to improvised music because they are searching, chasing those fleeting moments when sound converges just so, engulfing and moving you in ways you could never attain otherwise. It’s these moments that join musicians and listeners.  The Major may not be Furuya’s strongest date, but it’s as authentic as anything he’s put to tape.  May he keep the torch burning.
This is another extremely limited LP from NoBusiness. Get it from the label here.  Dan Sorrells



Provocador en sus títulos, el saxofonista japonés Nobuyasu Furuya muestra en The Majoralgunas de las distintas caras del free jazz. Estas pasan por la espiritualidad heredera de la de Coltrane, el free-bop, el free a la clásica, las formas cercanas a la libre improvisación e incluso las baladas “a-la-free“. Para ello repite con algunos de los compañeros de sus anteriores grabaciones. El quinteto vuelve a ser el mismo que grabó la parte deStunde Null en quinteto, mientras que junto a Hernâni Faustino y Gabriel Ferrandini (contrabajista y baterista respectivamente del RED trio) grabó la parte de ese disco en trío, y Bendowa al completo. Furuya se encarga en esta ocasión de la escritura y dirección de los seis temas, que lo revelan como un magnífico compositor. Su duración individual y total, ajustadas ambas al formato de un LP sencillo (tres piezas por cara), consiguen una atractiva inmediatez desde la primera nota. Pachi Tapiz      



Nobuyasu Furuya Quintet: The Major (2010 [2012], NoBusiness): Japanese tenor saxophonist, has a previous album on Clean Feed, again recorded this in Lisbon with what looks to be a local group. This one is released in Lithuania on limited edition (300 copies) vinyl, but I’m listening to a CDR. Impressive depth in a free jazz setting, much aided by Eduardo Lâla’s trombone — gives the group a New Orleans polyphony feel, but rougher than that. B+(***)

Tom Hull



An excellent contemporary free jazz set by the quintet led by the great Japanese multi-instrumentalist, Nobuyasu Furuya, recorded and mixed in November 2010 at Namusche, Lisbon by Joaquim Monte. All tracks were composed and conducted by Nobuyasu Furuya, but the end product should be attributed to the whole band: I decided to review it in Hern\^ani’s entry for the amazing bass work he does here.

The music is not very abstract, even though it is fully improvised. There are clearly defined themes and motifs, as on the opening “Jap agitator caugh again”. The conversations of the John Coltrane-like tenor and Roswell Rudd-like trombone is breath taking. Together with the piano and the section playing amazingly, this exploding hymn is truly marvelous! “D.O.O development of our own” is even better — it is the evident highlight of the album, starting with a stunning piano trio, followed by a wonderful bluesy tenor cadenza in Albert Ayler’s style. Another fragment of the piano trio is even better — lyrical and stunningly meditative. In the final part Nobuyasu returns on clarinet in dialogue with the trombone, and yet another trio fragment takes place, this time more abstract and fragmented. “Racial battleground – declaration from Detroit” is a 5 minutes long permanent free jazz explosion. I adore “Colored to cell – JAPS to hell”, notable for incredible flute lines of Nobuyasu. “Where are the brothers and sisters?” is more traditional with a clear walking bass rhythm, yet incredibly expressive and absorbing. “When no saints go marching in” is a slow song with wonderful clarinet lines and a “traditional” jazz accent, reminding me of some of the Albert Ayler’s songs. Finally, Nobuyasu on clarinet and the quintet take us for an 11 minutes long marvelous journey “To the valley of paradise”. Fantastic album, originally released as LP in 2012. Maciej Lewenstein