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||| Masayoshi Urabe @ Termite Club, Leeds, 17/06/2002 |||

D. Konstrukt

In The Wire #218, David Grubbs describes a Taku Sugimoto performance "as single gesture". Grubbs stresses the wholeness of the performance, not just in terms of its musicality but as expressed by the physical nature of the piece being played. Unity of intent is enhanced by gestural coherence, which imbues the event with ritual significance.

Masayoshi Urabi
Masayoshi Urabe's appearance at the Termite Club was similarly intensified by theatrical focus on movement and visual presentation. Urabe played a single long set in the top room of Leeds Adelphi Hotel, against a half-light of emergency lighting and filtered streetlights. His chosen instruments were a metal ball and chain, harmonica and alto saxophone. After three rapidly smoked cigarettes with the filters methodically removed, he curled up with his hands outstretched and began banging the chain repeatedly on the floor. The ritual had begun. Tiny noises of metal against teeth, floor and other metal followed, punctuated by long silences and characterised by small, though dramatic gestures. The act of beginning evoked Noh theatre, or the slowdance of Cecil Taylor towards the piano before exploding into action.

Urabe is often compared to the late Kaoru Abe, who also focused on solo performance incorporating long silences between outbursts of intensity. The comparison was bolstered by Urabe's choice of harmonica, played to such effect on Abe's 'Last Concert' album. Urabe began playing quietly, and slowly built up to incredibly brutal stabs of noise accompanied by sudden physical contortion. Traffic noises formed a backdrop to this curiously Cagean St. Vitus Dance. Urabe dropped the harmonica and walked over to the saxophone.

This final stage of the performance was nothing short of incredible. Opprobrium magazine's vivid description of "pained silences and extreme alto exorcism " only begins to indicate the exhilaration of seeing Masayoshi Urabe in full flow. Sometimes screaming out phrases, sometimes deep in concentration between dynamic interruptions, Urabe entranced with the physical exertion of his playing and sheer variety of joyous improvised phrasing. There was a hint of a folk song, mangled steadily and purposely beyond recognition, recalling Albert Ayler's finest moments. Throughout, the recognition and utilisation of sometimes lengthy silences, shaped the piece. Urabe rigorously questioned, probed at, and extended, the internal consistency of the piece. Finally, there was no more. The ritual was over. Almost. Urabe broke the filter off another cigarette and lit up.

Thanks to the Termite Club for booking Masayoshi Urabe at very short notice. He was only due to play two UK dates, both in London, before the Termites were made aware of his visit late in May.

The Termite Club is a moveable feast of improvised and related musics, which hosts concerts at various venues around Leeds.

The Opprobrium website was down when last visited. If it returns, check out the article about Masayoshi Urabe.

No-Neck Blues Band

 Hong Chulki, Choi Joonyong and Jung Eunju at RELAY 04, 2005

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