takami hasegawa L'Ecume Des Jours

These are the kind of stories that make me smile. Truth be told, there is desperately little story out there to tell of Takami Hasegawa’s sole release L’Ecume Des Jours (a nod to Boris Vian’s novel Froth on the Daydream…). Singer-songwriter Takami Hasegawa from Fukushima decides to release an album of Gallic-style, Les Disques du Crépuscule-influenced vocal Jazz Pop, enlists master Japanese session jazz artists like Chito Kawachi (percussionist/producer), Hideo Ichikawa (on keys), and Kunimithu Inaba (on fretless bass) to sculpt her ideas, does so in 1983, and promptly falls off the musical map — that’s what written history I could scrounge up anywhere. That’s not what makes me smile.

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What makes me smile about Takami Hasegawa’s L’Ecume Des Jours is just the sheer amount of effort around 100 Japanese fans took to get it out of Epic’s vaults and re-released for a very small run, just for them. In 2012, 100 votes, on some Sony Music Japan website was all that it took for them to discreetly, and with little fanfare, reprint a very short run of the release, a year later. 100 votes, was all that separated losing this album to some dust bin of musical history. Ruminate on that, for a second. It’s a thought that still boggles my mind. The question is: why were all those fans so passionate in trying to resurrect this album?

The answer lies in the other reason L’Ecume Des Jours makes me smile: the music. Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff. Obvious Chanson influences are there, but clear influences from the ambient Jazz of ECM to the modal music of Miles and Coltrane, and the askew minimalist Pop of the aforementioned Les Disques du Crépuscule, were there. However, there are those other, pure ideas that are truly unplaceable. Those are the bits that make this album intimate and unforgettable.

“Toh No Ue No Tsukihime” sets the scene. I’m still hard-pressed to place this song in the ‘80s. Warm and sophisticated, faint shadows of electroacoustic minimalism dance with the ruminative piano melodies from Hideo Ichikawa and the understated, yet quite tender vocals of Takami. Somehow, it was new, minuit music for an era closer to the time of the “greatest” generation. But it’s this opener that both taps into the dusky music of McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett, yet leaves fingers deep into the spacious, torch balladry of future, contemporary artists like Paul Buchanan’s Blue Nile or Mark Hollis’s Talk Talk.

A respite for variety and taste, the rest of L’Ecume Des Jours presents even more fascinating ideas. I’ll fast-forward to the most brazen ones. “Koneko To Watashi” is one. Largely drum machine-driven, it unfurls with gorgeous floating melodies dropped like sonar bass pings from Kunimithu Inaba as Takami delivers equally thoughtful, well-measured vocals. Others like “Circus Ressha” sound like Coltrane filtered through Yoshio Suzuki’s mind. Once again, on songs like this, the utterly sublime interplay between Hideo Ichikawa on piano and Kunimithu Inaba (doing his best Danny Thompson or Isao Suzuki impression) on bass make songs hit you right where you wouldn’t expect them to. Experimental in a way that’s quite spiritual, there’s just something about that song that is some sort of special. Somewhere, John must be smiling at it, for sure.

I’ve just spoken about three tracks. Forgive me, if I go back, and bring up “Circus Ressha” again. Can you hear Chito’s obvious Teo Macero-like tape and effect manipulations coloring the edges so wonderfully in “Sphinx” as he did just a track back? Powerful, powerful stuff…

Can I even share with you that this album includes soft, Country-lilting songs? Ones that also bring to mind Françoise Hardy as well? You know, the ones, with all sorts of beautiful string arrangements that shift hues like some gorgeous fall horizon. What else can I say? It appears, I’ve drank the water…

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