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Masahiko Togashi: Rings

Album Notes

This legendary solo percussion set by the Japanese drummer Masahiko Togashi was originally released as a double LP in 1976, fell out of print, and became quite a collector's item before being reissued on a single disc in 1999. Togashi would go on to have something of a career as a jazz musician, but here he's into the pure sound world of percussion, particularly the tuned territories of gongs, cymbals, and tom-toms. Perhaps in part because he is wheelchair-bound, Togashi spurns the pyrotechnics that afflict many a solo percussion effort, instead placing himself deep in the Japanese tradition of Zen-like open space, clear and discreet tones, and the careful placement of sounds. The gorgeous recording quality allows the different sounds to occupy distinct spaces in the speakers, creating a palpable spatial sense, almost like different characters in a play. Indeed, there's almost a subtle narrative element at work here, and the listener can easily construct storylines to accompany the music. Simple melodies, some derived from Asian sources, others apparently of African origin, float to the surface between the more purely rhythmic sections, offering a lovely diversity and quality of surprise. Pieces like "Ring 7," a beautiful song with a West African marimba theme, were apparently recorded in the open air, replete with bird songs offering obbligato. One of the finest solo percussion albums ever recorded and a must for fans of any sort of contemporary improvised music. Highly recommended. ~ Brian Olewnick


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