As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Akira Sakata and Chikamorachi.
It was 20 long years between U.S. releases for Akira Sakata. It’s not as if Sakata was stuck toiling for naught in his homeland. Sakata’s reputation, in the right company, precedes him. It’s why long-standing improv heroes from the world over have gravitated toward collaboration with Japanese icon, ready to provide the needed timbre for his buoyant saxophone.
Enter Chris Corsano and Darin Gray, AKA Chikamorachi. The duo, no strangers to the world of improvisation and collaboration, were a part of Sakata’s Friendly Pants — the Family Vineyard released album that brought Sakata’s minimalist jazz back to the States. The venerable label, never afraid of following up such bold strides, does so with two distinctly different Sakata releases, yet live joint Live at Hungry Brain stands as a lasting document of Sakata’s brilliance as well as one more testimonial to the work of Corsano and Gray.
The album begins with a rambunctious rendition of “Friendly Pants,” a bit more edgy and unrefined than its studio recorded sibling. Corsano’s relentless drumming, Gray’s asymmetric bass, and Sakata’s furious bellows are fuller, wider, and more rock-tinged in the live setting. A 12-minute recording becomes a 7-minute torrent; multiple listens to gather the complexities behind the madness will only breed more madness.
But it’s the B-side, “Wild Chickens in the Lake M.,” that finds Sakata and Chikamorachi as more than just three individuals capable of creating magnificent din. The track begins with a monochromatic melody, scratched out by an old bow on a brittle string before giving way to Gray’s smokehouse bass groove and Corsano’s back alley smacks. “Wild Chickens” is the brand of defunct jazz that gave birth to slaughterhouse cool; a blend between the frightening and the chill. Sakata blows with the best of them, bringing classic jazz riffage into the 21st Century. It’s not so much a fusion of genre but of style; of perception. The values jazz greats held so dear are embraced by Sakata, Gray, and Corsano, though slightly twisted to fit a modern retelling of jazz’s chaotic rebirth.