Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Last night I saw DJ Krush with Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, Akira Sakata, Shuuzan Morita, and Ken Shima, at BB King's Blues Club in NYC.
The set was 90 minutes, divided into four sections. Each of the above guests got their own little spot, with Krush backing them (except for Lif and Aesop, who were onstage at the same time).
The first guest was Shuuzan Morita, on various shakuhachi (wooden flutes). That part was relatively calm and drifty, with Krush creating huge almost subsonic rumbles beneath the melody and beats.
The next guest up was Ken Shima, on piano. He was great, starting off quite melodic but winding up pretty far out - reaching into the piano and yanking on the strings as Krush started bringing in much louder and more aggressive beats. A very nice mix of jazz and hip-hop that had nothing to do with "acid jazz" or any similarly soporific mid-90s crap.
After Shima left, Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif took the stage. They performed the songs they did on Krush's new record, "Kill Switch" and "Nosferatu" respectively, backing each other on the choruses. Then they freestyled for a couple of minutes and left. It was a very disciplined, tight performance, with none of the nut-grabbing, wave ya hands bullshit that usually sinks live hip-hop.
Finally, Akira Sakata came out to play alto saxophone. I have one of his albums, Fisherman's.com, on which he's backed by Pete Cosey, Bill Laswell and Hamid Drake. It's pretty good once you get past the chanting that opens each track. He also plays on Last Exit's The Noise Of Trouble, which isn't my favorite of their albums but is pretty solid. So, he's not some cocktail jazz guy.
Krush played the beginning of Fisherman's.com as Sakata's introduction, and then they were off to the races. Sakata was blowing extremely free stuff, ripping up the horn, and Krush was blasting drum 'n' bass beats behind him. It was a terrific combination. Things slowed down a little as the set wound to a close, but Sakata stayed out, occasionally putting down the horn to do some Buddhist chanting, which the crowd seemed to appreciate quite a bit.
The whole set was based on Krush's excellent new album, Jaku, but it wasn't enslaved to it. He took that record's tracks and used them as starting points for improvisatory dialogue between him and each of his guests. It was the most impressive turntable-based performance I've seen (I've also seen the X-ecutioners, DJ Spooky, and Kid Koala live), because it wasn't about stunts; it was about sustaining a mood, and creating a cohesive work of one-time art.
There were cameramen at the gig, and a quick scan of other dates on Krush's current U.S. tour reveals the absence of all last night's guests, so I'm hoping a live DVD culled from this apparently one-off show is in the offing.