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An ECM debut from Masabumi Kikuchi and a last session from the great Paul Motian. Motian and Kikuchi were friends for many years and Paul understood the idiosyncrasies and the wayward charm of the veteran Japanese pianist's highly personal style perhaps better than anyone. The trio - completed by Zen bassist Thomas Morgan - makes new art out of the interactive free rubato ballad, resulting in a strangely beautiful album.

Born 1939 in Tokyo, pianist Masabumi Kikuchi played with Lionel Hampton and Sonny Rollins while still a teenager, and made his recording debut in the early 1960s with Toshiko Akiyoshi and Charlie Mariano. In the 1970s he collaborated with Gil Evans and Elvin Jones and led his own groups, in both acoustic and electric modes, variously drawing influence from Miles Davis and Stockhausen, from Duke Ellington and Ligeti and Takemitsu. Kikuchi was amongst a small group of musicians with whom Miles Davis would regularly confer in his post-"Agharta" retirement period, and recorded a still-unissued session with Miles in 1978. Several of Kikuchi's 1980s recordings were devoted to the synthesizer, but by the 1990s he was again emphasizing acoustic piano, founding the group Tethered Moon with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian, a unit whose recorded repertoire often examined a particular composer's or interpreter's works: the discography includes tributes to Kurt Weill, Edith Piaf, Jimi Hendrix and Puccini.

This first ECM album by the veteran Japanese improviser finds him headed into new territory. "Lately", he says, "when I sit down at the piano I do not prepare what I will play nor do I think about how to play, and I believe I found the way of putting out something new, and I guess I could call it my own". Kikuchi credits Paul Motian (1931-2011) for pushing him further in the direction of spur-of-the moment discoveries. Realized in 2009, at New York's Avatar Studios, this session was Paul's penultimate ECM recording (Live At Birdland with Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden was recorded two months later).

Personnel: Masabumi Kikuchi (piano), Thomas Morgan (double-bass), Paul Motian (drums)


  1. Name
  2. Ballad 1
  3. New Day
  4. Short Stuff
  5. So What Variations
  6. Ballad 2
  7. Sunrise
  8. Sticks And Cymbals
  9. End Of Day
  10. Uptempo
  11. Last Ballad
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