The Naoko Sakata Trio’s second album Flower Clouds from 2013 describes modern jazz in ethereal form, summoning images like glaciers slowly breaking, waves cresting, powerful and mysterious changes patiently unfolding. It is like floating on an ocean raft, subject to unpredictable swells and unsure of the next movement.

The songs are effective at advancing modern jazz with moments of experimental group improvisation. There is layered jazz with subtle changes as well as heavy chords and rock-beat propulsion. The balance of the music tends towards deep development with a real organic vs. inorganic feeling, a fusion of nature and machine.

Like music with a similar European “ECM sound”, atmosphere and creativity are vital forces. Rhythmic power and drama flow through the elegantly recorded material.

At 47 minutes long, the twelve tracks stimulate with immediacy and attitude. Four of the most creative tracks feature symbols as names: “□ (Square)”, “∞ (Infinity)”, “△ (Triangle)”, and “○ (Circle)” are soundscapes of group improvisation, yet most other tracks hang comfortably on a jazz-rock framework.

All tracks are strong and balance each other well, with some highlights including: “If I Could See You”, a snappy cascade; “Måne”, a fluid mystery; “Bucharest”, wispy and magical; and “Gräsänklingen”, a folkish exploration, thick and tense.

Flower Clouds by Naoko Sakata Trio

  • Naoko Sakata - piano
  • Anton Blomgren - bass
  • Johan Birgenius - drums

Released in 2013 on Atelier Sawano as AS-129.

Japanese Names: Naoko Sakata 坂田尚子

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May 13, 2021