Currently based in New York, saxophonist and composer Saco Yasuma was born and raised in Japan. Active as a keyboard player in rock and funk bands in Japan, she moved to the United States in 1989. Upon arrival in this country she quickly fell in love with jazz, and more specifically free jazz. Among the artists she has worked with include Billy Bang, Ras Moshe and Steve Swell, to name just a few. Among her awards are the 2001 and 2002 Meet The Composer Award and a Manhattan Community Arts Fund Grant and Brecht Forum.
While the music on this disc is ostensibly free jazz, the melodies of each composition are still very melodic and extremely pleasing to the ear. They are followed by the more traditionally-based free jazz improvisation which most listeners are more familiar.
"Liquid Entity," as an example for the way most of the disc’s compositions are constructed, has a funky tonal vamp in seven in the rhythm section upon which sustained chordal tones in the horns are over-layered. This is followed by a series of solos in a more experimental realm. Trumpeter continually deserving wider recognition Roy Campbell Jr.’s solo starts in a traditional mode and through vector lines away from his first central motive eventually devolves his solo into tiny germ units. Yasuma’s solo is less linear and shows influence of Evan Parker.
The best composition on the disc is "Fat Orange Moon." This is a wonderfully beautiful and lyric composition in which poet Golda Solomon’s words have been augmented by a sympathetic musical treatment. This piece, like "Liquid," begins quite tonal before the solos take the composition into other realms. Yasuma’s solo lines perfectly balance the thoughts and sound images of the poem and in tandem with percussionist Michael T.A. Thompson create a bubbling brook of cross-currents. Campbell’s marvelous trumpet then comes in to settle the rolling-boil down and take it back into its initial peaceful calm. At an obviously predetermined point he and Thompson both explore territory similar in nature to the road where Yasuma had just previously walked. Andrew Bemkey’s pianofully poignant piano solo follows.
The wide dichotomy between the traditionally set tonal melodies and the forward-thinking free jazz solos is, after a while, a bit off-putting. At times it sounds like there are two different composers at work. The intrinsic loveliness of Yasuma’s melodies, she composed each of the CD’s pieces, at times truly beg for traditionally set tonal improvisation.