Steve Marcus (September 18, 1939 – September 25, 2005) was an American jazz saxophonist.
He was born in The Bronx, New York, United States. Marcus studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, between 1959 and 1961. He gained experience playing in the bands of Stan Kenton, Herbie Mann and Larry Coryell from 1963 to 1973. His first album as a leader included an arrangement of the Beatles’ song, “Tomorrow Never Knows”. He worked with jazz drummer Buddy Rich for the last twelve years of Rich’s life. After Rich died, Marcus led the band and renamed it Buddy’s Buddies.
Marcus died in September 2005 in New Hope, Pennsylvania. (wikipedia)
Masahiko Satoh (Satō Masahiko, born 6 October 1941) is a Japanese jazz pianist, composer and arranger.
Satoh was born in Tokyo on 6 October 1941. His mother was Setsu and his father, who owned small businesses, was Yoshiaki Satoh. The house that his family moved into in 1944 contained a piano; Masahiko started playing it at the age of five. He began playing the piano professionally at the age of 17, “accompanying singers, magicians and strippers at a cabaret in the Ginza district”
By 1959 Satoh was playing in Georgie Kawaguchi’s band, together with alto saxophonist Sadao Watanabe and tenor saxophonist Akira Miyazawa. Satoh graduated from Keio University.
At the age of 26, Satoh moved to the United States to study at the Berklee College of Music.He stayed for two years, during which he read about composing and arranging. He earned money working in a food shop and playing the piano in a hotel. In 1968 he wrote the music for, and conducted, a series of pieces that were combined with dance and performed in New York. After returning to Japan, he recorded Palladium, his first album as leader, and appeared on a Helen Merrill album.
In his early career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Satoh played in a free, percussive style. Satoh played at the 1971 Berlin Jazz Festival as part of a trio; he used a then-unusual ring modulator to alter the sound. Also in the early 1970s, he recorded with Attila Zoller, Karl Berger, and Albert Mangelsdorff. He wrote the psychedelic music for the 1973 anime film Belladonna of Sadness.
Satoh has written arrangements for recordings led by, among others, Merrill, Kimiko Itoh, and Nancy Wilson. He also arranged for strings and quartet on Art Farmer’s 1983 album Maiden Voyage.
In 1990 Satoh formed a large group, named Rantooga, that combined various forms of folk musics from around the world. In the early 1990s he composed music for a choir of 1,000 Buddhist monks. In the early 1990s he was reported as stating that 70% of his time was spent on arranging and composing, and the rest on playing and recording.
Satoh has composed for film, television and advertisements. For instance, he made the music of Kanashimi no Belladonna, a film in which the sound is very important ; all the songs of this movie are performed by his wife, Chinatsu Nakayama.
Some of his compositions are influenced by the space in the works of composer Toru Takemitsu. Satoh has also composed for traditional Japanese instruments, including the shakuhachi and biwa. (wikipedia)
A jazz-rock match madein heaven between East and West. Both Steve Marcus and Jiro Inagaki are formidable saxophone stalwarts of the 70s jazz scenes in their respective countries. Exciting to have had both artists join forces for a once-in-a-lifetime session. A linear and concise listen that gives you a taste of what Jiro Inagaki & Soul Media’s early sounds where like. A must for fans who also like Ryo Kawasaki, Masahiko Sato and Larry Coryell.
Interestingly, Jiro Inagaki’s long discography started out in the 60s primarily with easy listening pop-rock albums in the vein of The Shadows and The Ventures. It is fascinating to hear how he has slowly moved away from that style towards serious jazz-fusion styles. Leading to 1969 where he formed his most well known group, Jiro Inagaki & Soul Media, which is also the subject of this post. I believe this is his most successful period which had artists like guitarist Ryo Kawasaki, pianist Hiromasa Suzuki and bassist Yasuo Arakawa pass through his ranks.
The album is a straightforward listen clocking in at just under 30 minutes with 3 tracks. Though on the 2013 CD reissue an unreleased alternate take of “Something” was included
The instantly recognisable opening notes of The Beatles’ classic “Something” kicks off this album with Masahiko Sato on electric piano. Steve Marcus’ soprano sax is the first to come in, sweetly crooning the verse while the guitar and drums create textural splashes slowly filling out the gaps. Inagaki’s tenor would join during the chorus creating a harmonious unison akin to Lennon and McCartney. Marcus’ lead sax lines during this song are a joy to listen, played with soulful intent and provides a much appreciated depth which can be lacking on jazz covers of pop songs.
In comparison to its alternate take, the track is identical in arrangement however the musicians are filled with a bit more vitality on this upbeat run. The timbre in Marcus’ sax is higher and Kawasaki’s guitars fills are played with more urgency. With the length of this take doubling that of the original, there is more time for the musicians to explore and take turns on extended solos expressing themselves thoroughly. Overall it’s comparing apples and oranges between takes, I do enjoy the original take a bit more as it did capture the original song’s mood and emotions better while I do appreciate the solos on this alternate as well.
The next two tracks are originals written by Sato, “Fairy Lights” is a bluesier affair that lightly skirts around avant-garde elements and patterns. Where the instruments are let loose and allowed to get aggressive on their runs. The electric piano and guitar alternates to create arpeggiated sonic staircases, moving onto a call and response between sax and guitar.
“Serenity” is a through and through free jazz number, I had a deja vu while listening to this as I realised this album structurally was similar to Motohiko Hino’s First Album (1971). In terms of how it progressed, length of album and having the last track being the most experimental. Maybe it was in vogue during the period with both being recorded around 1970/71? I’m not entirely sure.
Arrangement-wise “Serenity” begins beautifully, slowly building up with each instrument orbiting around the piano. Of course leading to the inevitable breakdown where each instrument jets off into space. Each one howling and clashing into and around the other while still curiously occupying their own pocket throughout. Ending off on a satisfying cacophony of sax, toms and cymbals.
On the whole, my only quibble with this release is with “Serenity”. I do think it was beautifully played however in terms of arrangement it was a bit formulaic and I had expected more involvement from the twin saxophones having stronger highlights during this tune. On the flip side, “Fairy Lights” is my favourite off this album and I would’ve liked to see more being done in that direction as it was well arranged and balanced with interesting elements.
Considering the length of the release and accessibility of the tracks included. With only the closing track really going off tangent into heavier free jazz territory. This would be a decent quick sampler for getting into Inagaki’s work, though 1970’s Head Rock would still be a more comprehensive entry point. In addition, this album featured his early core Soul Media members Ryo Kawasaki and Yasuo Arakawa who both appears on multiple releases.
One last interesting note is that Masahiko Sato would go on to score the fantastic psychedelic free jazz unholy grail to notorious adult anime, Belladonna of Sadness. (zujago.com)
Yasuo Arakawa (bass)
Jiro Inagaki (saxophone)
Hajime Ishimatsu (drums)
Ryo Kawasaki (guitar)
Steve Marcus (saxophonne)
Masahiko Sato (piano)
Seiji Tanaka (drums)
01. Something (Harrison)6:45
02 Fairly Rings (Sato) 9:45
03. Serenity (Sato) 11
04. Something (alternate version) (Harrison) 13:13