Wednesday, July 27, 2016

KAORU ABE – Mort À Crédit (2LP-1976- ALM Records-AL-8/AL-9)

Label: ALM Records – AL-8 / AL-9
Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: Japan / Released: 1976
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Subtitled "Saxophone Solo Improvisations" / Gatefold sleeve
A-1, B-2 recorded live at Aoyama Tower Hall, October 18, 1975.
B-1 and C-1 to D-2 recorded at Iruma Shimin Kaikan, October 16, 1975.
Design [Designed By] – Nobukage Torii
Photography By [Photo] – Masahiro Imai
Includes liner notes in Japanese by Aquirax Aida
Producer – Aquirax Aida, Hangesha, Yukio Kojima
Recorded By – Yukio Kojima

A  -  Alto Improvisation No.1 ............................................................... 26:00
B1 - Alto Improvisation No.2 .............................................................. 11:20
B2 - Alto Improvisation No.3 .............................................................. 12:30
A1 - Sopranino Improvisation No.1 ...................................................... 6:17
A2 - Alto Improvisation No.4 Part 1 ................................................... 20:14
B1 - Alto Improvisation No.4 Part 2 ................................................... 18:50
B2 - Sopranino Improvisation No.2 ...................................................... 7:00

KAORU ABE – alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone

After the Partitas double album (recorded 1973, released 1981), Mort À Credit was to become the last Abe album to be released in his lifetime.

Mort À Credit was the title given to Céline's novel Death On The Installment Plan, not a coincidence and an analogy that makes at least a little bit of sense - Abe was reportedly a major Céline fan, and his solo disks on PSF have Japanese translations of Céline text attached to the songtitles in the CD inserts. It consists of two alto improvs from a show on October 18, 1975, and five more (three on alto, two on sopranino) from another performance a couple of days earlier. Released by Kojima on 2LP in 1976 (the reissue does not appear to contain any unreleased material), it can be said to mark a significant change in Abe's style. Abe is here a little soften from his usual urgency - this can perhaps be in part attributed to the passage of time - and become more interested in spacing and the exact rhythms of phrasing. While never entirely ignorant of these concerns, by now they had come very much to the fore, as is illustrated by the two recordings from the earlier show here, in which roughly cut-off notes are spaced so regularly that their rhythms are like watching a slowed-down strobelight. With run after run of harsh, crude and almost bawdy staccato honking, Abe speedily races through the octaves in ascending and descending anti-order cadence. He breaks regularly into very shrill squeaks and squeals (and the occasional bold wail-melody) and references non-existent simplistic and just about jokey tunes. The eventuall effect is like having someone tapdance on stilletoes on your temple. Some passages are about 50% clearer than others, and at more than one point the fidelity swings sharply, moving from distant, muffled high-pitch screeching tones to furoious forehead-centre blowing gusts in virtual machine-gun arc.

Of the three alto tracks from the October 16 performance, the first is the most impressive. Again beginning with twisting, dancing note clusters that somersault forth from the speakers, Abe soon moves into the increasingly familiar technique of aching, wrenching bursts of heavy shrieking alto, separated by stopwatched periods of silence. Dwelling almost exclusively in the upper register, Abe sets upon the sounds lying within a limited tonal range and squeezes hard, eking an incredibly broad range of textures from an ostensibly small palette. He continues to work thus in the following two pieces, nodding throughout to the temperately expressionistic style he would employ so effectively on the Nord duo with Yoshizawa, and further impressing the change that had by now come about in his playing. Though at this point still slightly unfocused in parts, these recordings offer a significant development of his earlier playing that's simultaneously evolved and honed down/devolved, and are crucial from a historical perspective, showing Abe to be almost out on his own at this point (and also helping to contextualise the efforts of present-day practitioners like Masayoshi Urabe and Tamio Shiraishi). The two sopranino cuts hint at more history to be dug up, like Abe's pieces on bass clarinet showing him to adapt to the instrument rather than forcing the instrument to adapt to him. The first in particular (though at the time of the show possibly intended as introductory in nature) sends lovely, moving and sustained melodies flowering forth, one after another; the second ups the pace, with Abe improvising in light, feathery strokes - a painfully abbreviated look at another potential big gun in Abe's arsenal, the only other available glimpse being the Graves record, and who knows how often Abe actually employed the instrument in the live setting.

Mort À Credit shows Abe in a fascinating period of transition, moving forth to something complexly and identifiably new, yet intransigently rooted in what had come before. Alan Cummings reports that the general consensus in circles there within which Abe's work is known and appreciated is that he was at his best ca. 1970-1973/74, a view I don't think I could ever really significantly disagree with. But for me the period summarised by Mort À Credit is also highly salient. While his earlier recordings focused on energy and an almost self-conscious encompassing of the saxophone's entire range and sonic potential (like some deliberately comprehensive inventory of Sounds You Can Make With An Alto), the material here shows Abe audaciously experimenting with a smaller range of sounds - those inherent in the instrument's upper limits - and pushing them further, narrowing his scope and coming up with improvisations which, in what they attempt to achieve, are arguably even further 'out'.
(– Review by Nick)

If you find it, buy this album!


  1. KAORU ABE – Mort À Crédit (2LP-1976- ALM Records-AL-8/AL-9)
    Vinyl Rip/FLAC+Artwork

    KAORU ABE – Mort À Crédit (LP1 - AL-8)

    KAORU ABE – Mort À Crédit (LP2 - AL-9)

  2. Thank you very much for Kaoru, Vitko!

  3. Enjoy, my friends, this is really only for serious listeners, and of course, for those who want to make a little effort and to gradually explore a new experience in understanding music.
    The condition - himself in the room :)

  4. "Mort À Credit was the title given to Céline's novel Death On The Installment Plan in its French translation" - erm, no, actually. As Celine was French, and he wrote in that language, that's exactly the wrong way round.

    But this is a beauty of a post, so thanks anyway!

  5. So, it can be seen below, if you read more than the first sentence that this is random error, because a little later immediately suggests the Japanese translation of the French text .... ehhhh ............!
    In any case, thanks for writing.

  6. Dear Vitko, just a few impressions. While storing a dozen of your rips unheard on my pc,(hope to find time to listen in the next weeks), I managed to have a intense listening on your last three postings. Well, to be honest, La Monte Young really isn't my cup of tea, Faust are always Faust, I sometimes prefer their later releases like Ravvivando, but Kaoru Abe is simply stunning. I'd listen to the album full force in one session about over 100 minutes from start to finish (from a burnt DVD)and it was indeed an amazing new experience in understanding music. Afterwards I were totally shattered.
    By the way. I am grateful for the complete album scans. I appreciate those complete scans, including the gatefold inners, even I do not unterstand japanese language.
    All in all, you improve my musical education ones again. Simply thank you for that.

    Uwe from Germany

  7. Uwe from Germany, I'm glad to hear from you :), Kaoru Abe is really unique.

    Unfortunately, his premature death meant he never lived to see the heyday of Japanese avant-garde music, nor enjoy the prestige his type of abilities on saxophone might have garnered him as the interest in free jazz increased in the '90s. He also never held at least half of his releases in his hands, since some of the best material from this player was only released in the years after his death. The entire CD format, allowing the expansive playing time required to properly document his unfolding energy discourse, was also not something he lived to enjoy. Several small labels have practically created cottage industries out of his posthumous releases, pumping out an annual multiple-CD set for several years running. Fans of his playing tend to count backwards from the date of his death to the recording date, the higher the resulting number basically indicating the greater possibility of genius contained within. There are several explanations of this, one rooted in debauchery, and the other in perhaps a worse curse, multi-instrumentalism.
    At any rate, this performer's lifestyle is said to have been soaked with liquor, stuffed with drugs, and sniffing with loneliness and tragedy.

    Some of the lack of appeal of Abe's later material has got to come not from the perception that he is out of it but from his introduction of other instruments, including the dreaded harmonica and crudely played guitar. Historically, there are few known cases of saxophonists being praised for adding other instruments into their arsenal, so any critical about-face on this issue can be considered an important development in itself. Other Japanese music scholars have praised the later-Abe material and his use of diverse instruments, but even they seem to feel his work on the alto saxophone has never been equalled. One thing is for sure, no matter how extremely noisy the Japanese music scene has gotten, it has yet to produce another reed player as good as this one. His solo sets were said to be the peak of his creative form, but he also took advantage of opportunities to record with the master American free jazz drummer Milford Graves and the British father of free improvisation, guitarist Derek Bailey. Abe contributes immensely powerful playing to these two completely different contexts. He also can be heard on recordings with other Japanese free players, such as the Aida's Call album, in which he holds forth with dynamic trumpeter Toshinori Kondo and virtuoso bassist Motoharu Yoshizawa, yet another booze casualty. One of Abe's earliest groupings was the New Directions duo in 1970 with Masayuki Takayanagi.


  8. still dreaming of the day when you'll do more Strata East posts - especially the first Piano Choir album and the New York Bass Choir album...

    1. Please be patient for a while, it's a pretty extensive work, I will soon introduce several Strata East albums. Before that, I have a few previously scheduled topics on which I have worked, you know, I can not make a post for a day, after ripping sound track with vinyl, a long time working on the sound quality (for this I am particularly sensitive), and great effort around the cover art and complete artistic presentations, not to speak. So this blog is specific in that it gives you everything else that you can not find absolutely nowhere, and it is precious for every true collector.

  9. excellent - look forward to it - thank you...

  10. marvelous, i´m a goner...thanks for the turn-on, your efforts for sharing these records with such pristine sound are much appreciated, take good care Vitko...

  11. Very appreciative of all the music and the care with which it is presented and explained. Many thanks.

  12. Hi, could we have a new link please? Thank you so much for all of this great music.

  13. Hi, could we have a new link please? Thank you so much for all of this great music.(2)