On paper, this should be a totally staggering, face-melting monster of an album and it admittedly comes damn close: Akira Sakata is a Japanese free-jazz legend and Chris Corsano is, of course, an absolutely stupefying drummer. Furthermore, Chikamorachi is rounded-out by an excellent bassist (Darin Gray) and the trio has already been playing together for a couple of years. Though this is Sakata’s first album to be released in the US in more than two decades, this wider reissue of 2007’s “Friendly Pants” is actually the band’s third release (the first two featured a rather high-profile fourth member- Jim O’Rourke). O’Rourke, incidentally, produced this album and actually issued its first incarnation on his own Shakaijin Records imprint.
Unsurprisingly, the playing is often incendiary: Sakata unleashes a frenzied, shrieking cacophony on the title track, “In Case, Let’s Go to Galaxy”, and “Yo! Yo! Dime”, while Corsano is his characteristic hurricane of flailing limbs throughout. Gray, for his part, holds it all together with some impressively restrained and melodic playing and all three musicians seem to function intuitively as an organic, vibrant unit. However, at the risk of sounding un-jazz-savvy, I honestly believe that once you’ve heard one apocalyptic saxophone freak-out, hearing any others yields significantly diminished returns. It has been almost fifty years since Ornette Coleman recorded “Free Jazz” and, while a number of unhinged and searing masterworks have been recorded since then by folks like John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, there frankly is not much new that can be done with totally free sax blow-outs. Sakata and Chikamorachi certainly unleash some undeniable raw power, but they are beating a fairly dead horse for much of “Friendly Pants”. I am certain that the trio would be utterly transfixing to witness live, but listening to almost an hour-long CD of retro, post-bop, free-jazz flame-throwing gets exhausting pretty quickly.
Fortunately (to his credit), Sakata breaks up the album a bit with some more languorous, noirish fare (such as “Un” and “With Saigyo Path”) and I surprised myself by generally preferring that to the more cathartic tracks (I must be getting soft). However, the piece that seems to work best is “That Day of Rain”, which expertly explores the gap between the smoky melodicism and unbridled chaos of the rest of the album. While certainly explosive, the rhythm section locks into a near-groove that makes it sound less like three guys wildly improvising than a structured track that is being literally torn apart by the intensity of the playing (Corsano is especially vicious here). These three fellows certainly make for quite a devastating and formidable entity, but I think they’re a bit too heavily indebted to the avant-garde of several decades ago to fully realize their enormous potential just yet. That said, if their ambition and creativity someday catch up to their passion and virtuosity, they will tear people’s heads off. 7/10 -- Anthony D'Amico (21 October, 2009)