Otomo Yoshihide

Otomo Yoshihide moves between free jazz, noise, improvisation, composition and the unclassifiable with a generosity that opens up the possibilities for expression in all of the constellations with which he's involved. He spent his teenage years in Fukushima, about 300 kilometers north of Tokyo. Influenced by his father, an engineer, Otomo began making electrical devices such as a radio and an electronic oscillator. In junior high school, his hobby was making sound collages using open-reel tape recorders. This was his first experience creating music. Soon after entering high school he formed a band which played rock and jazz, with Otomo on guitar. It wasn't long, however, before he became a free jazz aficionado, listening to artists like Ornette Coleman, Erick Dolphy and Derek Bailey; and hearing music, both on disk and at concerts, by Japanese free jazz artists. Especially influenced by alto sax player Kaoru Abe and guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi, Otomo decided to play free jazz.

In 1990, Otomo started what was to become Ground Zero. Until it disbanded in March 1998, the band was at the core of his musical creativity, while it underwent several changes in style and membership. Since Ground Zero, Otomo has embraced minimal improvisation, film music and the jazz/big band conceptions of his New Jazz Quartet/Quintet/Orchestra.

Featured releases

Two of OTOs favourite improvisors lock together in Tokyo, creating jagged noise and percussive clashes - sometimes full steam, sometimes hiding in each others shadows.  "Utterly beguiling recording of two great improvisers at work in the Hara Museum, Tokyo in the winter of 2013. Drumset, percussion, guitar, amplifier - a simple set up that produces complex and extremely dynamic results, with immense swells of enveloping feedback, fragile cymbal scrapes that hover at the edge of audibility, ecstatic free-rock clatter and slyly resonant melodies." ''The musicians feed their material into the space, enough to be picked up by their feedback system, after which they ride their own sounds, penetrating inside the noise to throw its shapes." - Philip Clark, The Guardian  "Yoshihide allows his guitar’s feedback to build up, and as The Last Train unfurls with ghostly patience, he carefully molds the increasingly molten sounds emerging from his six-string until at times it barely sounds like a guitar at all. . . . Turner’s jangles on bells and bowls imbues the music with a gamelan-like ritualism, whilst Yoshihide’s guitar acts as a bass-heavy foundation allowing the drummer to throw out percussive blasts and clashes in controlled abandon." - Joseph Burnett, Dusted  --- Roger Turner / percussion Otomo Yoshihide / guitar --- Recorded by Taku Unami at Hara Museum, Tokyo on 17 February 2013. Mixed and mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Produced by Trevor Brent. 

Roger Turner & Otomo Yoshihide – The Last Train

This recording gathers all of the music from the final night of Otomo and Sachiko's first residency in 2009 which saw the pair joined by the long running trio of Evan Parker, John Edwards and Tony Marsh and special guest John Butcher. Butcher played duos with both Otomo and Sachiko and joined the quintet for a rousing sextet: stunning twin saxophone interplay, the unparalleled open-ness of the Marsh/Edwards rhythm pairing, Sachiko's deft high frequency interventions and Otomo's guitar at the centre - moving between abrasive textural invention and suggestive single note runs of ever-shifting melody. REVIEWS "As for indicating a place in the curiously sculpted bridges between improvised music and sound art, well, the simple singularity of these daring and committed performances should bear out their significance." Clifford Allen, Tiny Mix Tapes "This Quintet/Sextet album is recorded beautifully and it needed to be to capture all the nuance involved ... These are musicians at the top of their craft." Free Jazz Blog "...fresh and inspired. The recording stands as a finely-honed classic of classically approached free improvisation: the players dance and flow smoothly and effortlessly with and around the sounds of their partners." - Henry Kuntz Point of Departure Review

Quintet / Sextet / Duos – Otomo Yoshihide / Sachiko M / Evan Parker / Tony Marsh / John Edwards / John Butcher

「Small Stone」  "In Japan during the Covid-19 lock down we saw a movement. It was created from a woman who raised her voice to say NO via SNS to one of the controversial bills, a revision of the public prosecutor's office law* that was about to go through the Lower House without a fair public hearing. This tiny voice of hers went viral and formed an online demonstration to protect our democracy. It is very rare in Japan for the public to be actively involved in any policies. Alas the bill was temporarily suspended because many finally stood up. When we threw lots of small stones, the mountain got moved a little. However we shouldn’t celebrate yet. We need to be calm and grounded and observe what the government will do.” says Kyoko Koizumi, an actress and a producer whom I respect dearly. Her phrases sums up things that do not change so easily.  *A proposed legal revision that would raise the retirement age for prosecutors became the centre of controversy this week when it was taken up by the Lower House. Unlike officials in other administrative organizations, prosecutors have wide powers to investigate, arrest and indict anyone, even prime ministers and other high officials. They must remain highly neutral and independent from other authorities and political powers. Since the proposed revision could allow the Cabinet to intervene in the personnel affairs of prosecutors’ offices, many experts fear it could jeopardize the independence of prosecutors and the separation of powers.   「Serene」 The music of Eric Dolphy lives with Breathing. We never forget the day May 25th 2020 for the world we can freely breath in and out.  「Two Blue Kites」 June 4th 1989 , it is a very memorable day for me.  31 years ago I took part in a demonstration for the first time ever in my life. It was a small resistance held in Tokyo. I was with the Chinese people raising my voice out loud in the crowd. I couldn’t do anything but I felt that I had to do something.  In the beginning of the 90s I was going back and forth between Tokyo and Hong Kong making music. I was offered to make music for a film portrait the night before the Chinese Cultural Revolution called “ The Blue Kite”. The producer of this film invited me to make the music for the film. The film director was banned from making this film in mainland China and he escaped to Japan via Hong Kong. The film was finally completed in Japan. Hong Kong was still in British colony then. This film made my film music career begin.  June 4th 2020 The Hong Kong government banned the public to organise and attend the candlelight rallies to mark the Tiananmen Square massacre. Despite the harsh policing and the Covid-19 regulation many people (still) defied the ban and tried to attend the commemoration. I was thinking of many of my friends there at the moment.   I wonder how this little country, Hong Kong, that “brought me up” and “ shaped me who I am today” will be from now. My heart is full of concern for its future. The film The Blue Kite is still banned in China to this date." - Otomo Yoshihide In Japanese / 日本語訳 「Small Stone」 日本では、ステイホームの期間中の5月8日、一人の女性の発言をきっかけに、現政権がやろうとしていた三権分立をゆるがすようなひどい法案(検察庁法改正案)に対し多くの人々がSNSを使って異を唱え、それがデモのような効果をもたらし、5月18日国会での法案決議を阻止するに至った。 「小さな石をたくさん投げたら山が少し動いた。が、浮き足立ってはいけない。冷静に誰が何を言い、どんな行動を取るのか見守りたい。」 敬愛する女優でありプロデューサーの小泉今日子が5月19日にSNSで呟いたこの発言は、そのうねりのことと同時に、しかしそう簡単に現状は変わらないことも表している。 「Serene」 エリック・ドルフィーが作る曲は呼吸とともにある。2020年5月25日は忘れてはならない日だ。 みなが伸び伸びと息ができる世界のために。 「Two Blue Kites」   6月4日は個人的にも忘れられない日だ。31年前のこの日、わたしは初めてデモに参加した。東京でおこなわれた小さなデモだった。東京に住む中国人たちと一緒にわたしも声をあげていた。いてもたってもいられなかったのだ。 90年代初頭、わたしは香港と東京を行き来して音楽をつくっていた。そんな中1993年、文化大革命前夜の北京を描いた「The Blue Kite」という中国映画の音楽を作ることになったのが、わたしが映画の世界に入る切っ掛けだった。中国で作ることを禁じられ、香港経由でフィルムを持って日本に脱出した監督が東京で完成させた映画で、香港のプロデューサーがわたしを誘ってくれたのだ。当時香港はまだイギリス領だった。 2020年6月4日、香港では天安門事件31周年の集会が新型コロナを理由に禁止されていたにも関わらず、多くの人たちが集まり追悼集会が開かれていた。きっと多くの友人もそこにいるのだろう。わたしを育ててくれた香港はどうなっていくのだろうか。 「The Blue Kite」は今でも中国での上映が禁止されている。

Otomo Yoshihide – 「Small Stone」

Past events