Naika Reviews T-SQUARE’S LIVE “NATURAL” (1990)

If there was any band in Japan that illustrated that jazz fusion was a vibrant, edgy but prodigious genre, it would have to be T-Square for me.  Formed in 1978 as a university jazz group led by kick-ass guitarist Masahiro Andoh, T-Square is now a band that is currently closing in on its 35th year of existence (in 2013) and continues to have an album or two made, EVERY DAMN YEAR!  Last year’s Nine Stories was a homerun of an album that had all sorts of jazz fusion goodness, thanks to their two younger members, the effervescent Keizoh Kawano and the young gun drummer known as Satoshi Bandoh (both of whom have released solo albums recently to much fanfare).

Grateful as I am to the new stuff that’s being pumped out by the most recent lineup of the band, I’m using the time that I have here to talk about the T-Square lineup that I love THE MOST, along with one of my favorite performances ever captured on video from them, and that’s their live concert in Asahikawa: T-Square’s Live Natural ’90.

Featuring the artful Hirotaka Izumi on keyboards, the funky bass of Mitsuru Sutoh and the powerful drum work of Hiroyuki Noritake, along with Andoh-san and Mr. Takeshi Itoh himself, T-Square’s most famous lineup was in full force for this performance.  Marketed as a video and laserdisc, T-Square’s Live Natural was a performance for the ages, celebrating both the release of their 1990 album of the same name, along with the simple idea of what it means to be “Natural.”

Aside from the 90s fashion sensibilities, the one thing you will notice is that it’s an outdoor venue, with the lush landscape of Hokkaido vying hard for center stage.  Much of the song listing for the concert is fitting too, with nature-themed tracks such as White Mane, Daisy Field and Wind Song helping to fill the dots with the rest of the album’s hits like Control and Radio StarMorning Star from their 1989 album WAVE makes an appearance to rock the audience while the appropriate Duo allows Noritake and Sutoh to wow the crowd with the importance and skill required for a drummer and bassist to make a jazz fusion band go bump in the night.  And lastly, there’s no other way the band can end the night without performing their number one hit, Truth.

All in all, T-Square’s Live Natural was, and is, a complete performance showcasing the strengths of the band and the amount of musicianship it takes to create something more lasting than what you’d find in your basic Top 40.  With easy accessibility on YouTube, due in part to some generous T-Square fans overseas, anyone can access this awesome show with the touch of their fingertips.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with this type of music and the amount of class this band has, do your best to open your eyes, and most importantly your ears, to what T-Square can offer, and from what you’ll find and see, you will truly know what it means, at least in a musical sense, to be natural.

NOTE: All image scans courtesy of Fenikon at the Fenikon’s Jazz Blog.

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The Blue Moon Goes Straight to Hell!!!: Arsenal vs. Manchester City (4-8-2012)

With a dash of gloom hanging over the Emirates after their lackluster performance against QPR, Arsenal were poised for an uphill battle against the title contenders, but with Silva out, things were NOT going to be easy for Manchester City.  As the first half rolled out, we saw an Arsenal side that looked re-energized and ready to take on the Blue Moon head-on, attacking the ball and maintaining possession throughout. City soon became a threat, but not while the “inspired” behavior of Balotelli came to light. How the ref failed to see Mario’s stud-y challenge against Alex Song blows my mind, but whatever.  Arsenal had one good chance from a Van Persie header that collided with the Verminator during the first half, but aside from that, both teams held each other to 0-0 by the end. Both Benayoun and Rosicky rode the midfield battle well, and our back four were solid as rock.  From my point of view, Arsenal looked to be the better side…

The second half did see City rile themselves up a bit, but Pizarro was not as helpful as Mancini had expected.  Na$ri was worthless and all his boos were well deserved in my opinion.  Tevez and Aguero lacked their usual bite and Arsenal continued to dominate the midfield, with Song breaking up the plays and Arteta winning more balls than my fingers and toes could count.  Our mess up with Theo, Yossi and Verminator not being able to shoot right in front of the box was an absolute howler, while Van Persie’s hitting of the woodwork and Benayoun’s low shot were all excitingly frustrating to watch, but were all indicative that we were on the verge of scoring.

And then the 87th minute rolled forth, with City claiming possession.  Arteta bolts through and steals it away from Pizarro and streaks towards the box.  He looks around, says “FUCK IT,” cranks his leg back and lets out a bolt of blue lighting twenty-five yards out that was so sudden that it left both Lescott and Hart in the destitute rubble and dust of pure failure.  The Emirates erupted in triumph as our teams arms were splayed up high while Arteta gave the fans a showing of his “jelly” belly.  And the cherry on top of the icing?  Us Gooners mocked the Blue Moon outright by replicating their infamous “Poznan.”  How fucking great is that?

So yes, Ramsey blew out his potential game sealer, and the ref FINALLY gave Mario a well deserved red, but nothing was more deserved than our victory over a side whose every move seemed blessed by England’s wayward football punditry.  After being beaten by an Arsenal side who began the season as “relegation fodder” and “a club in crisis,” we have finally proven that we are side with immense quality.  Arteta’s sheer determination throughout the match has now proven that he is now a diehard Gunner’ (and not the “panic buy” that many have initially thought) and the impressive workrate of older players like Song, Benayoun and Rosicky should provide more storied inspiration for our young Guns, including Ox, Ramsey, Frimpong, Ryo and Coquelin.  Our match against Wolves this Wednesday will be hard fought, and we will be missing Koscielny at this venue, but let’s hope Djourou can continue with his good performance from last time and we can snatch away another three points.  Cheers to us fellow Gooners, and most of all, cheers to the tarnished title hopes of City, thanks to Mikel Arteta!