A novel album in several ways, Gakudan Hitori from musician Reikan Kobayashi contains interesting dimensions and juxtapositions. Kobayashi is proficient on many instruments but has primarily made a name for himself by playing shakuhachi in Japan and using the traditional Japanese bamboo flute in jazz music. As strong a voice the whistling wind of the wooden flute is itself, the incorporation of this characteristically Japanese sound to jazz and other music adds to the originality of this 2011 release.
The album title translates to “One Man Band” and highlights another unconventional aspect of this record, that of Kobayashi being the sole musician on all the tracks. Not quite a solo performance though, he plays all the instruments separately with overdubbing to create what sounds like several musicians performing together, with guitars, piano, bass, hand percussion and more all in the mix. Of course, the shakuhachi takes center stage on most of the songs, with guitar or piano backing along with other instruments.
Adding to the variety is the range of material written by the musician, including light pop, bebop blues, sweet Ghibli-like themes, heavy rock, and dramatic soundtrack-type movements. Two tracks in particular, “Ghost’s Tears” and “Takumi”, are quite effective at presenting the mellow, breathy sounds of the Japanese instrument with strong compositions, summoning spiritual, zen-like impressions of traditional Japan.
Not just a collection of solemn atmospheres, the overall tone leans toward cheerful and moving songs, and while this is not a conventional jazz album, it is a stimulating and diverse collection of musical ideas from one man’s mind, hands, and breath.
Leader/Composer: Reikan Kobayashi · 小林鈴勘 · http://reikankobayashi.net/
Instruments played: Shakuhachi, piano, keyboard, guitar, wood bass, flute, melodion, egg shaker, voice percussion, whistle, nabe pot.
Released in 2011 on Mokorin Music as MM-001.
* Audio sample at top of page from “Ghost’s Tears”, the sixth track on this album.