What we wrote at the time…
Over the course of his thirty-year career, Kazuo Imai has matured into one of the most arresting and unique improvisers in Japan, creating an original and powerful body of free music. Principally working with guitar (both acoustic and electric), although he also uses electronics and viola de gamba in performance, Imai creates music which displays a keening interest and empathy for both the textures of ethnic and avant-garde classical genres alongside an unparalleled schooling in free playing and improvisational techniques.
Starting in the mid 70s, Imai studied under the two giants of Japanese experimental music at that time, free jazz giant Masayuki Takayanagi and fluxus agent provocateur Takehisa Kosugi. Famously, Imai was the sole graduate from Takayanagi exacting twelve years of tutelage, all other students falling by the way by the second term. But it was twelve years well spent, as over the past decade Imai has produced a body of work that shows him to be an improviser of international importance. In particular, his latest release on PSF Records sees him navigating his nylon string guitar through a whole realm of new possibilities. Under the attack of an extended battery of techniques it sings out a deep and emotional intensity, born of tension and abstraction and far beyond the conception of most.