AMN Reviews: Sabu Toyozumi / Mats Gustafsson – Hokusai (2020; NoBusiness Records)

Drummer Sabu Toyozumi is not very well known outside of a few circles. One of his many claims to fame is being the first non-American in the AACM. In addition to that, he has spent the last five decades touring, performing, and recording with a long list of improvisers from three continents. Mats Gustafsson, of course, is more of a household name (if people in your house are into firey free improv) and has played with a similarly long and varied roster of musicians. As far as I can tell, this meeting, recorded live in Japan in June of 2018, is the first between the two.

Toyozumi plays the drum kit as if it were a group of found objects. While he produces rolls and occasional rhythms, his use of space and sparse phrasings are more prevalent. Rather than fill the pieces on Hokusai with notes, he proceeds in a meandering and deliberate fashion. Gustafsson, perhaps influenced by this approach, is uncharacteristically minimal at times. He switches between sax and flute, eliciting angularities from both. When not in the background, Gustafsson offers up staccato runs, wails, and warblings. Among the five tracks, each musician has one dedicated to his solo playing. This further accentuates and complements their duets. The result is an album that is exploratory and mostly quiet, but with a few blasts here and there to make sure you are paying attention.

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