Recording of February 1995: Two Sides to Every Story

TIGER OKOSHI: Two Sides to Every Story
Tiger Okoshi, trumpet; Mike Stern, electric guitar; Gil Goldstein, acoustic piano; Dave Holland, acoustic bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums
JVC JVC-2039-2 (CD only). Jim Anderson, eng.; Akira Taguchi, prod. DDD? TT: 65:20

In recorded music, the artistic merit of the music is not entirely separable from the sonic quality of the recording. It requires an act of the imagination, a leap of faith, and considerable historical curiosity to enjoy old Charlie Parker records. In the case of Two Sides to Every Story, you ask yourself: Does Tiger Okoshi possess one of the world's purest, most cleanly articulated sounds on trumpet? Or is it simply that this album presents one of the highest-resolution recordings of a jazz trumpet that you've ever heard?

Figuring it out is a high-class problem, brought to us by engineer Jim Anderson and producer Akira Taguchi and JVC's "20-bit K2 Super Coding System." Since the Okoshi album sounds stunningly superior to other recordings made by the same engineer in the same studio (eg, Dave Kikoski, also done at Power Station in New York), at least some of the difference must be attributed to the K2 system, which employs a 20-bit, 128x-oversampling A/D converter. JVC claims that "K2 Super Coding resolves the high-resolution 20-bit signal to the 16-bit compact-disc format while retaining the integrity of the low-level information." The K2 interface is said to "effectively eliminate time-base jitter in the digital datastream."

On the opening track, "On Green Dolphin Street," Okoshi's horn knifes into the air of your listening room. For all its razor edges, you still hear the timbral complexities—the explosion of air in the embouchure and the halos of the decays. Jim Anderson has captured the powerful harmonics of the trumpet—one of the most elusive sounds in jazz. You quickly remember why armies use trumpets to sound the charge.

Tiger Okoshi was born in Japan 45 years ago, but has lived in the United States since he was 22. He studied at Berklee in Boston, and has played and recorded with Gary Burton and Bob Moses. Rather quietly, he's been making albums of his own on the JVC label since 1981. Two Sides to Every Story should get him noticed. Okoshi is a fearless, slashing swordsman of a trumpet player, with the chops to execute every one of his imagination's sprinting, swooping, soaring ideas. His own songs ("Finders, Keepers," "Wiz or Wizout") are open-ended concepts to provoke spontaneous trumpet arias.

But he's best when he's rethinking standards. Who would have expected Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight"? Okoshi doesn't mock it—he seriously rocks it. Everyone has done "Yesterdays," but here it's fleet and new. Miles played "On Green Dolphin Street" muted; Okoshi shatters it on open horn in order to reshape it.

The rhythm section is sublimely maniacal. Jack DeJohnette hisses his cymbals and rolls up thunder, and never stops soloing while he keeps time. The recording renders the power of DeJohnette and bassist Dave Holland, and also their subtlety: you hear the softest clicks of sticks on metal, and Holland's fingers sliding to their double-stops.

Two Sides to Every Story is one of this year's essential jazz recordings, and it establishes Tiger Okoshi as a major voice on his instrument.—Thomas Conrad