Patrick Shiroishi | Sparrow’s Tongue
Fort Evil Fruit (CS/DL)
As LA-based musician Patrick Shiroishi explains his new recording, his sixth solo album, on the Irish imprint Fort Evil Fruit: “All of the saxophone parts were recorded live with additional field recordings as well as my mother reciting some of my grandfather’s tankas. Two pieces focus in on overtones via tenor and alto, two pieces focus on playing the alto and soprano simultaneously, with the fifth piece playing the soprano into a snare drum to create a kind of feed-back with the instrument interplaying with an audio recording of an atomic bomb slowed and reversed.” Five unique tracks clocking in just over thirty-three minutes become this quasi stage play of vignettes in its fusion of Shiroishi’s forlorn brass and the earnest spoken word oration by his mother Uzuko Shiroishi, presented in the tankas (short traditional Japanese poems) of his grandfather Seiji Inoue. It’s a lovely improvisational dedication to the generational family line.
The opening of The Footsteps of Crows acts as something of an overture. Shiroishi’s upward flowing sax as if it were at the gates to greet and announce the guest cast. Its tucked bird calls are a surprisingly nice touch as well. While neither jazz nor classical in the traditional sense, his playing helps the ear better understand certain things about sound separation, and at times, circular breathing. As Grasshopper Tactics starts, in this dappled ambient place, where soft percussion and chimes fill the room, there is a feeling of holding on, like a blanket, to certain truths. The meditative piece breathes in and out with a hybrid countenance. This is all bathed in the type of light as if the sun is slowly rising. The gentle effects are offset slightly by a metered percussion about three-quarters through, otherwise most of this is in the wind with the brass almost flute-like in its upper range.
Each track speaks of something different, but all of the animal kingdom. The Crocodile’s Dilemma has the most subtle of beginnings, with near silence for the first minute, the tanka is delivered stoically and a sudden rumbling effect, like an industrial sewing machine amplified at close range, does battle with the Shiroishi’s breathless playing which sounds like the reverberation of a reed – blown to imitate a snare drum. These two variant timbres are rife with scales and brazen attitude, yet remain friendly foils. The rough edge plays well to keep the active ear wide open. Now that the surge of energy has widened along comes the drip, drip, drip of Be a Lion, I Will Still Be Water. The title, what a great metaphor! This balance of masculine/feminine is something we require in our society now more than ever – and this track dramatizes that equity. The interspersed voice fits well in the otherwise mesmerizing atmosphere of drone, I almost want more, but understand the minimal simplicity of the form in which this was built, so there lay an unexpected tension.
The concluding short piece, When the Dog Got His Cat Eyes, utilizes field recordings and sweet shifting sax chords that simply swirl sweetly. It is a minimal out jazz work, and like the tanka its built on, a bit apprehensive, yet soulful in its sense of yearning. Elegant.