A few months back I picked up some reissues of albums that jazz bassist Gary Peacock made in Japan in 1971, all featuring remarkable pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, who died last summer in his adopted home of New York at age 75 (he moved there in 1974). Kikuchi became known during the last few decades his life for his fruitful musical relationship with drummer Paul Motian—they put out several releases in the trio Tethered Moon, which also included Peacock. Motian's final studio recording was on the pianist's fantastic 2012 album Sunrise (ECM).
In a 2012 interview with Ben Ratliff in the New York Times, Kikuchi said, "I don't have any technique. So I have had to develop my own language." He was being modest about his technique, but truthful about his language—an elliptic approach marked by silence as much as sound. On these early recordings with Peacock, he hadn't quite achieved the Spartan sound he eventually mastered, but he was on his way, playing mercurial lines amid Peacock's churning patterns. The 1971 album Voices, a trio session with alternating drummers Masahiko Togashi and Hiroshi Murakami, has been stuck in my CD player for days. It occupies the same meditative, questing terrain explored by Paul Bley before its release and by Keith Jarrett after. I'm a sucker for its elegant sense of dynamics, which gives empty space a crucial role in the arrangements and improvisations. Today's 12 O'Clock Track is Peacock's tune "Bonsho."