And That's the Story of Jazz is a two disc album from free-jazz saxophonist Akira Sakata and guitarist Jim O'Rourke. Also on hand for this recording is Chikamorachi, a rhythm section consisting of Chris Corsano on drums and Darin Gary on bass and percussion. The songs were recorded live in October, 2008. The songs are long and often dissonant explorations of sound; there is no easily discernible structure. Rather, the music flows from mood to mood, making this recording ideal for album-oriented listeners who do not mind a lengthy and sometimes challenging experience.
The group establishes a dark tone immediately, as "Kyoto" begins with an eerie and atmospheric introduction only to dissolve into a furious cluster of notes, with Sakata reaching into the highest registers of his instrument. The bass and drums sometimes recall hard bop, but much of this music is only classifiable as free music. "Kyoto" remains at full throttle until a funereal and sparsely melodic ending provides some welcome contrast.
"Hanamaki" opens with very complicated, polyrhythmic drumming. Sakata takes his solo into daring places in this song, pulling a wide variety of tones and colors from a single-note drone backing. Sakata can play long, flowing melodic lines or create bursts of sound with rich harmonic overtones. Guttural vocals and scratchy atmospherics bring this song to a peaceful ending, with O'Rourke exploring a small group of notes over drones.
Disc two is devoted to "Nagoya," a extended song divided up into three tracks. Many of the albums finest moments can be found here, as spastic charges alternate with ghostly atmospherics and mournful soloing. Many of the most fragile parts of the concert are contained here, but careful listening is rewarded.
All of the musicians, with the exception of O'Rourke, possess virtuosity and impressive stamina on their instruments. Akira Sakata in particular has a powerful technique and daring creativity. Chikamorachi should not be understated either. Their flowing, polyrhythmic approach weaves in and out of Sakata's solos with skill and purpose. The only challenge to this group then, is O'Rourke. O' Rourke's blasts of feedback are the least interesting moments on the record. Feedback can be very interesting if manipulated carefully and creatively-- Jimi Hendrix and Sonny Sharrock, for example, were masters of finding subtleties in distortion. However, O' Rourke's primal sheets of feedback sound like constant blocks of noise that often hold back the dynamics of the music. His work moves from whispering drones to huge walls of noise, with very little in between. Also, he is mixed very loudly on the record, which makes it difficult to hear the other musicians at points. O'Rourke is at his best when he experiments with electronics. This can lend an almost psychedelic quality that provides an interesting counterpoint to Sakata's frantic solos.
The recording is dedicated Mr. Yoshitaka Sugaya, a personal friend of the group who was lost in the tsunami disaster in March, 2011. This lends a personal and tragic feel to this often raw recording. Free Jazz fans will likely find a lot to interest them here.