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The Noise of Trouble: Live in Tokyo

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Album Review

Recorded in October 1986, The Noise of Trouble: Live in Tokyo was the second official Last Exit release to assail the bounds of decency and taste in jazz improvisation (that's a compliment). Well on the heels of their early-1986 European tour, the group's interplay was pretty well-honed by this point, comfortable enough that they could welcome guests for some of the Tokyo performances: reedman Akira Sakata and, oddly, Herbie Hancock (on one piece). The album opens with a five-section medley that places snatches of blues songs in between group improvisations, and that's as accessible as things get. Shorter, free-form sound explorations — usually centered around Sharrock's guitar — alternate with longer, freely improvised jams highlighting the group's uncanny feel for smooth transitions. Sometimes they'll hit on a blues- or rock-tinged riff or a solid groove; sometimes they'll leave one individual to solo freely, whether by pushing with their support or dropping out altogether; sometimes they'll build up to a full, free group improvisation. The tracks with Sakata on the second half of the album are the best; his interactions with Peter Brotzmann are delightfully chaotic flurries of sound, and Sonny Sharrock sometimes joins in on the upper reaches of his fretboard for a third, perfectly blended voice. Sakata and Brotzmann also duet on "Needles Balls," which features some goofy bird-call noises that sound like a mouthpiece being played separately from its instrument. The Hancock track "Help Me Mo I'm Blind" finds the pianist mostly vamping on riffs and soloing traditionally; it sounds like he's joined at times and left to do his own thing at others. For listeners attuned to such extreme sounds, The Noise of Trouble is intoxicating in its raw, undiluted power and total disregard for propriety, not to mention the musicians' mastery of improvisational communication.

Biography

Formed: 1986

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s

When it comes to avant-garde jazz-rock noise, few bands kicked out the jams better than did Last Exit. A who's who of jazz players with punk-ass attitudes, Last Exit — guitarist Sonny Sharrock, bassist Bill Laswell, drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, and saxophonist Peter Brötzmann — could swing, rock, and create an all-out free jazz din all in the blink of an eye. More important, Last Exit were about the thrill and danger of total improvisation; so much did they believe in this concept...
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