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Masabumi Kikuchi Trio: Sunrise

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When you first hear the drummer in the right channel, whispering then falling silent then stirring again, you know it’s Paul Motian and it hurts to feel his absence from the world. Sunrise, by pianist Masabumi Kikuchi with Thomas Morgan on bass, was one of Motian’s last recordings before his death in November 2011.

In the press notes, Kikuchi says, “Lately when I sit down at the piano I do not prepare what I will play nor do I think about how to play, and I believe I found … something new.” The 10 tracks here are group improvisations. There are three called ballads (the opening “Ballad 1,” “Ballad 2” in the middle and the concluding “Last Ballad”), almost stationary pools of thought or mood around which the other tracks flow. Most of Sunrise is rapt and insular and extraordinarily patient. Some material, like “Short Stuff” and “So What Variations,” is more animated. But the harder pieces might meander into silence, as the ballads might suddenly spike. Transitions in this music are unexplained.

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