Reviews | Bendowa

While this linkage of two CDs featuring Japanese-born saxophonists playing in a trio with a non-Japanese rhythm section, may appear somewhat louche, there are similarities reflected on these appealing discs of which even the two protagonists may not be aware. This is despite the reality that alto saxophonist Akira Sakata is a Nipponese Free Jazz legend, while tenor saxophonist Nobuyasu Furuya is much lesser known.

For a start each musician was initially trained in a different field: Sakata as a marine biologist and Furuya as a cook in a Zen Buddhist temple. Furuya, who lives in Lisbon, was initially attracted to baroque music, studied Turkish traditional music and played in noise, ska-core and Free Jazz groups. Today he composes for film, theatre and dance including multi-media presentations for Berlin-based Mayumi Fukzaki’s theatre company. Hiroshima-born Sakata, began playing Free Jazz 40 years ago and since then has not only worked with committed improvisers as diverse as pianist Yamashita Yosuke and bassist Bill Laswell but recorded pop-leaning records and sung Japanese folk songs. Following gigs with guitarist Jim O’Rourke, he has made three Free Jazz CDs with noise-improvisers drummer Chris Corsano and bassist Darin Gray. This is the third, plus his first North American release in two decades.

Again with a lower profile, the rhythm section which backs Furuya on Bendowa –named for the 13th century book by the founder of Soto Zen – are bassist Hernâni Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini. Instructively both sessions are anchored by the self-effacing, sometimes inaudible bass players. Solidly present at all times, Faustino and Gray are the foundation upon which the saxophonists can stretch and splinter sound principles, as well as giving the drummers freedom to decorate tunes with shuffles, rebounds and precision strokes.

Faustino is conspicuously felt but barely heard throughout all of Bendowa’s five tracks, with the most profound application of this formula on tracks “Track 3” and “Track 4”.

Over the course of both these tracks Furuya gets to play all three of his instruments. Beginning with a snorting and wavering tenor saxophone exposition, his tone becomes dissonant and wide enough to suggest tug boat horn snarls. Meanwhile Ferrandini pats and paddles his cymbals and the bassist bounces his bow sul tasto. Moving from andante to largo following an unaccompanied exposition of split tones, Furuya pitch-sliding bass clarinet runs that initially resembled wild bird calls turn strident and stressed. On “Track 4” however, his stubby, bottom-toned flute sticks to the melody line until he begins peeping and crying semi tones through the flute’s body, rather like a restrained Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Ferrandini’s polyrhythms and subtle percussion thumps plus Faustino’s scrubbing and chafing allow Furuya to return with glottal-stopped and note-swallowing tenor saxophone runs that lead to clamorous braying and a final flat line exit.

Sakata’s improvisations often also end abruptly as he evidently runs out of steam on certain tracks. But the strength of Gray and Corsano accompaniment ensure that this doesn’t sound like a falling off, but a pause to foreshadow new creativity. Having developed a distinctive tone over the years, that is part-Jackie McLean and part-Hichiriki, the saxophonist’s sound is immediately identifiable, whether he’s spiraling and swelling split tones into molten frenzy or sliding and stuttering spidery timbres in his version of a ballad.

For instance on “Yo! Yo! Dime” – all the tracks are evidently titled in distinctive Japanlish – Sakata extrudes extended reed bites that expose various thematic materials then just as abruptly cut them off before they develop further. Eventually he reaches his desired strategy – shoving so much tonal variation into his solo so that not only is every note’s root sound exposed, but also all its extensions and partials. Meantime Gray thumps unhurriedly and Corsano burns, backbeats and thwacks snares, toms and cymbals in a circular pattern. Becoming more intense with squeaking staccatissimo, Sakata’s bugle-like tattoo hardens into a discordant sonic mass then abruptly ends.

It’s the same game plan for pseudo-ballads like “That Day of Rain”. Linear and pinched, Sakata’s low-keyed trilling eventually transform into strings of pressurized notes and split-tone cries as Corsano’s casual rumbles and thumps plus sensed walking from Gray maintains the mood. It’s the saxophonist who shatters it, weighing in with glossolalia and splayed note patterns. The fortissimo climax reached is then abruptly cut off.

Obviously what can be defined as Free Jazz with a Japanese tinge still exists and thrives in that country and abroad. These CDs confirm this.By Ken Waxman


Nobuyasu Furuya, a Japanese saxophonist now resident in Lisbon, makes his recorded debut with this excellent trio, backed by bassist Hernani Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini. Bendowa is named after a text by Zen monk Dogen that describes how to perfect the Buddhist way through the disciplined meditation know as zazen; and some passages among its five untitled improvisations are indeed meditative.

The second piece, for example, begins with bowed bass and gently caressed cymbals, in a manner that suggests an awareness of post-jazz improvisatory strategies. But Furuya’s flute playing on this track is quite disruptive, ascending from delicate puffing hiss to a full volume shriek that sounds almost like feedback.

The third piece is a Brotzmanniacal workout featuring ferocious tenor blowing as well as a middle section during which Furuya makes distressing, almost gastric sounds with the bass clarinet, while Faustino attempts to yank his instrument’s strings off, and Ferrandini offers intermittent commentary on toms and cymbals.

Indeed, throughout the disc, Faustino’s playing is practically an assault. Even when Furuya seems to be heading in the direction of traditional Japanese flute technique, as on the fourth piece, the bassist is back there strumming and bowing like Jimmy Garrison having a brain haemorrhage. This is the weakest track, if only because Furuya has a brief outburst of singing through the flute, something that must be discouraged. Excellent work overall, though, from a player worthy of free jazz fans’ attention. By Phil Freeman The Wire


There are albums that are gripping from the first moment that you listen to them, others have to ripen through repeated listens. “Bendowa“, a title that refers to the book by the Japanese zen master Dogen, belongs to the first category. From the very first notes, the trio’s approach is clear: lyrical, sensitive, free and creative improvisation. The lead voice is by Nobuyasu Furuya on tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and flute, with Hernani Faustino on double bass, and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums and percussion. The trio is based in Portugal and totally unknown to me. But I’m glad that’s no longer the case. Furuya’s tone is buttery and warm, even in the fiercest parts of the improvisations, and the Portuguese rhythm section is a perfect complement for the Japanese: their sense of “controlled passion” is just as great, as is their use of silence. In this silence, and in the calm elaboration and patient sense of pace, his apprenticeship as a cook in a zen monastery shows through, yet don’t get me wrong, this is not music for meditation: it’s as passionate and expressive as you could hope for, full of intensity. This is not the music of an enlightened soul. This is music of an authentic soul, a seeking soul, full of contradictions and tension. This is music of full of soul, full stop. Highly recommended.

Don’t be misled by some of the Youtube clips of the trio: the music on the album is much more controlled and sophisticated, and of course with an excellent sound quality.

By Steff


You can depend upon Clean Feed Records consistently to come up with interesting releases in the advanced free improv jazz genre. That doesn’t mean you’ve heard of everybody on the label. That’s a good thing because it means they are offering up some fresh faces to the international scene and that’s how growth happens in music. One of the ways, at least.

Nobuyasu Furuya. There’s a new name to me. He is a Japanese expat residing in Portugal. He’s studied Ottoman classical music. He plays vibrantly. There’s his new album Bendowa (Clean Feed). It’s a trio affair with Hernani Faustino on bass and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums. They do a fine job.

Nobuyasu has a good sense of linear drama and absolute control over his sound. Some people say he sounds like Archie Shepp on tenor. Well, there IS that sort of near-speech inflection he sometimes evokes. But there’s a little Ayler there too. Maybe some Dolphy as well. On flute he has a shakuhachi like purity. His bass clarinet is snaky. To me though, it’s his dramatic sense of space, of sound and silence, of color and darkness that stands out. The phrasing lengths, the pauses and the trajectory of his drive show a great sensibility.

There is plenty of good music on Bendowa. It tends more towards the exploratory than the frantic. But there is plenty of energy to be had as well. Here is a player to watch. Or rather to listen to. This CD will give improv enthusiasts a good adventure. I would say to you “go get it” if you are looking for a different sort of free player.

By Greggo Edwards 


Los amantes del saxofonismo free, correoso y peleón, no deberían perderse Bendowa del Nobuyasu Furuya Trio. Sin complejos, los temas creados por el trío toman títulos tan significativos como “track 1″, “track 2″ y así hasta “track 5″. Furuya (con su saxo tenor, clarinete bajo y flauta) es el encargado de aportar la energía, mientras que el contrabajista Hernani Faustino y el batería y percusionista Gabriel Ferrandini (ambos portugueses), son los encargados de sustentar la base rítmica y de evitar que la propuesta se transforme en un maremágnum de expresionismo libre y sin control. Crossover transnacional y temporal, Bendowa es una magnífica puesta al día de los postulados del free. By Pachi Tapiz


O japonês Nobuyasu Furuya, actualmente a viver entre Berlim e Lisboa, tem feito furor nos concertos pela chama incendiária do seu saxofone tenor: ao vivo é capaz de rugidos intensíssimos, capazes de assustar fãs de noise. Mas a arte do palhetista – Furuya toca saxofone tenor, clarinete baixo e flautas – não se resume à ferocidade; além de dominar diferentes instrumentos, o japonês utiliza uma variedade de diferentes técnicas. Acompanhado por uma dupla rítmica portuguesa, Hernâni Faustino no contrabaixo e Gabriel Ferrandini na bateria, tem neste trio uma plataforma segura para explorar um jazz aberto com ascendência no “free” e ligação directa a Peter Brötzmann – e que nos momentos extremos se aproxima da fúria de um Kaoru Abe. Mas é simultaneamente capaz de uma irrepreensível contenção “zen”, especialmente quando se aplica na flauta em delicados murmúrios. Neste álbum, “Bendowa”, homenagem a um monge do século XIII, o japonês tem o apoio inteligente de uma dupla lusa que não se limita a um papel de background: complementa e interage, reage e provoca. Ferrandini é talento bruto em ascensão (aqui está vibrante e atento) e Faustino tem uma performance especialmente rica, servindo-se do contrabaixo com criatividade. By Nuno Catarino  Ípsilon Publico


“La musica veramente buona ti costringe a pensare ed è questo il motivo per cui non è né agevole né facile da ascoltare. I musicisti oggi si preoccupano di come apparire e non di cosa dire ed è per questo che il jazz è morto. Suonano tutti allo stesso modo. Possono avere anche un’idea o un progetto, ma non hanno anima”. Sono questi stralci, assolutamente condivisibili, del Nobuyasa Furuya pensiero riportati nelle note di copertina della sua ultima fatica discografica.

E, ad avvalorare le sue parole, il multistrumentista e valente cuoco giapponese (leggetele attentamente le note di copertina) diviso tra Berlino e Lisbona, licenzia un disco che uguali ad altri proprio non è, o forse uguale ad altri lo è nella diversità. Nella ricetta culinaria di Furuya vi si ritrovano un po’ tutti gli ingredienti che da sempre caratterizzano la cosiddetta musica creativa: energia spesso selvaggia, assoluta libertà sintattica e morfologica, tradizione come base di partenza per esplorazioni anche estreme, incroci pericolosi tra generi e stili, e via dicendo.

Ciò che contraddistingue Bendowa, titolo di un libro del maestro zen giapponese Dogen, è il profondo senso religioso, meditativo che avvolge le cinque lunghe improvvisazioni. La libertà espressiva dei tre musicisti, anche nei momenti di maggior ferocia esecutiva, è come se fosse distillata attraverso un processo di trascendenza, o avvolta da un alone mistico che elimina le scorie e filtra la purezza del messaggio musicale. L’interesse di Furuya per la musica colta di matrice europea si manifesta nella grande attenzione posta dal trio all’uso degli spazi e alla definizioni delle voci strumentali e rende questo Bendowa un opera dalle molteplici suggestioni.

By Vincenzo Roggero All About Jazz Italy


Woodwinds and culinary delicacies are the twin areas of expertise of saxophonist/flutist Nobuyasu Furuya. Born in Japan and currently residing in Lisbon, Furuya employs the skill of a master chef in how he carefully combines colorful ingredients in his music. Bendowa features the rhythm section of the excellent Portuguese RED Trio and the group is unabashed in their affinity for the early practitioners of the avant garde (Archie Shepp and Peter Brötzmann are named specifically). The disc’s five improvisations cover many areas, often employing a zen-like sense of grace even in the most intense scenarios. There are plenty moments of great subtlety as well, a palpable sense of mindfulness in the sparse textures found in the second and third pieces. Drummer Gabriel Ferrandini mixes extremes of space, density, momentum and gesture in his thoughtful dialogues with his bandmates, always displaying impeccable taste and timing. The interactions between Furuya and bassist Hernâni Faustino are quite emphatic and the common language the two share sets the stage for a constant parade of fascinating musical conversations. By Wilbur MacKenzie All About Jazz New York