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 Star. Morning 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.