Shibusashirazu - 渋星 (Shibuboshi) (2004), 7/10

渋星 (Shibuboshi) has a clear identity early in the recording. The energy rarely dissipates, there are countless fantastic individual performances, and an equal number of interesting musical ideas spread throughout the hour of listening. Despite its adventurousness, it is clearly a big band influenced album and it wears those influences on its sleeve in a productive way. It does exhibit some of the same weaknesses that pervade the rest of the genre's significant artists, but this is balanced out with forward-thinking experimentation and exceptional improvisation. The first track, for instance, has a remarkable intensity and vigor, yet comes across as a woefully synchronized design with little true inspiration. Yet this is instantly followed by an exemplary illustration of the album’s strengths in “Naadam” which hosts wonderfully passionate group chaos, solid improvisational ideas, and remarkable individual instances of improvisation. The track is also split into parts that start by displaying this array of assets before launching into semi-structured prog-style jazz that plays into the other clear strengths of the group as a unit. “Quasar” contributes a great, unsettling intermission that provides needed pacing before “PA!” which exists as more of a bop-influenced blend of offbeat progressiveness with traditional influences. The obviously inspired “Space is the Place” is another great example of energized tone mixed with great production that combines to capture the madness perfectly and the energy is maintained quite well, more than in other tracks, before “In the Image of Images” that again blends the avant-garde with Shibusashirazu’s signature aesthetics. The project as an experience is satisfyingly divergent without escaping the grasp of the traditionally inspired big band sound. This works brilliantly when the group embraces the dichotomy of their conceptual sound but has mixed results in its end. Absolutely will cater to fans of big band, prog, and even popular jazz fusion. A great listen and certainly worth an hour of your time.