February 13th, 2019 | Album reviews


Life takes you strange places. A chance encounter—a post-Far Bar one-night stand, a ratchet Uber pool, a boozy night of karaoke duets at Tokyo Beat—and suddenly you’re engaged and moving your life across continents to start again. Mark de Clive-Lowe’s latest sounds like that feeling one gets, years after the move, reminiscing about the people and places you loved, with hot tears welling but not cried. It’s sentimental and stoic, certain of its direction but dreamy and spacious enough to let light in. The half-Japanese, half-New Zealander has an unimpeachable reputation in the hip-hop, electronic and jazz realms, but with this release he’s ready to engage with his far-east roots. Opener ‘The Offering’ is meditative and celestial, and is built in part around a left-hand piano ostinato, a figure de Clive-Lowe uses to anchor a frenetic and ferocious solo. The intro is reminiscent of Brad Mehldau’s ‘When it Rains,’ right up until that melancholy flute comes in on the head. This is brilliantly arranged, paced and played—a great tone-setter for a lush project. ‘Bushido 1’ is noir done well, a head built around unison sax lines and closely-voiced post-bop harmony. That dampened, electronic kick and snare hanging out in the background is, ironically, the most pastoral part of this crystalline production. de Clive-Lowe’s solo is once again fiercely done, a flurry of arpeggios building into thrilling reharmonization and bombast. Horace Silver’s Tokyo Blues album sounds retrograde in comparison to this stellar document, but its mature amalgam of traditional Japanese music and progressive jazz is absolutely related. It’s melodically similar and the band is roughly the same size and they’re both like, fantastic. The standout is ‘Akatombo,’ if only because it’s the only solo piano song on the record. That qualifier does this stellar composition a disservice—it is breathtaking. It turns on gospel harmonies and crescendoing then abating force. The figure from :51-:57 is a tears-on-impact moment, a gut-punching, ear twisting series of chords that resolve so satisfyingly one could listen to just this for an entire evening. You can never relive your past, but finding resolution will do.