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Soil & “Pimp” Sessions: Where East Meets West

by admin on April 24, 2017

Soil & “Pimp” Sessions are a band known for explosive, high energy performances, aggressive playing and a stage presence that is almost wacky. Formed in Tokyo in 2001 the quintet blends Latin styles like bossa nova with bebop and American club jazz to create what they refer to as “death jazz.” After building a following in the Japanese club scene, eventually becoming the first unsigned band to play Japan’s Fuji Rock festival, they began to gain international attention from record labels and tastemaking DJs (including British radio host Gilles Peterson), who gave their tracks heavy airplay.

Soil is quintessentially Japanese, taking the loud proud attitudes of American players and other aspects of American culture, and amplifying them to an insane degree. The frontman Shacho, the band’s “agitator,” is basically a gospel preacher on acid, shouting through a megaphone at the audience and moving around on stage without actually playing an instrument. The trumpet and saxophone played by Tabu Zombie and the former member Motoharu are definitely the highlight of the group, ranging from synchronized melodic lines to trading viciously fast and technical solos. The driving force of the drums played by Midorin and Akita Goldman’s double bass lines create a framework for the melodic lines played in a fast and furious bebop style that is apparent in most of their tracks. Josei, the piano player, plays much of the underlying harmonic structure, but rips out an occasional crazy and technical solo in more subdued sections of the arrangements before the horns take over and blast you with the melody. The entire band is highly proficient and are amazingly in perfect sync despite a high energy stage presence and almost mosh pit like environment.

Unlike many European groups that are highly experimental with little resemblance to American jazz stylistically, Soil along with bands like Seatbelt (the band behind the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack) hews much closer to American sensibilities. There is definitely an experimental aspect to these groups but it is much more in the tradition of an American group and keeps with a more traditional style of arrangement and songwriting.

The Japanese jazz scene is certainly unique, but upon hearing tracks like “Summer Goddess” or “Crush” you can see a clear line to American jazz groups like the SF Jazz Collective and Snarky Puppy.This is a common theme in Japanese jazz—which is often described as being American-sounding even sometimes being thought of as derivative or imitating of American styles. I feel that this criticism is unfounded. Much like the spread of jazz to Europe, America introduced the music to Japan early on and it quickly gained popularity due to its freedom and expressiveness. This is clearly evident in Soil’s work. European artists may scoff at American jazz as it’s generally more straight forward and rooted in traditional elements but this attitude is less apparent in Japanese jazz, which more closely resembles American ideals rather than eschewing them for a more intellectual approach.

by Austin Cerza

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