Masahiko Togashi, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, unearthed cult album

  • Masahiko Togashi, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden in the spotlight
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Supervised by Martin Meissonnier – then manager of Don Cherry – “

Song of Soil” is a summit of spirituality mixing jazz, Japanese and ambient influences. The album is reissued here with the original cover and remastered by King Records in Tokyo. It includes the original 2-page Japanese insert plus an 8-page deluxe booklet with new notes (Fr/Eng) by Martin Meissonnier in conversation with Jacques Denis as well as a biography of Masahiko Togashi by Paul Bowler and superb unpublished photos of the photographer Philippe Gras, witness of the session.

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“Song of Soil” by Masahiko Togashi was recorded in Paris in the summer of 1979, a few months after the release of “Codona”, but unlike the famous ECM album, “Song of Soil” was only released in Japan. The Japanese pianist Takashi Kako, who was also living in Paris at the time, had organized a session for Masahiko Togashi with Don Cherry and Charlie Haden thanks to Martin Meissonnier, a young journalist and radio producer, who was beginning to make a name for himself on the Parisian music scene. More importantly, Martin Meissonnier was also Don Cherry’s right-hand man in Europe at the time. “I had met him a year earlier at a concert at Mutualité, the Art Ensemble of Chicago or Sun Ra. As I opened the door, I saw Don Cherry and offered to help.” he recalls. Paris was then one of the epicentres of jazz following the Parisian exodus of many American free jazz musicians a few years earlier.

Masahiko Togashi was one of the most famous jazz musicians in Japan. Coming from a family of musicians, he became one of the key drummers of the Tokyo scene and a key figure in Japanese free jazz at the turn of the 60s, with guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi, pianist Masahiko Sato and saxophonist Mototeru Takagi. Despite an accident that leaves him paraplegic, Togashi remains very active thanks to a special battery that allows him to circumvent his handicap. He came to Paris to record “Song of Soil” with Don Cherry and Charlie Haden, then on a European tour with the quartet Old and New Dreams (including a concert produced by Martin Meissonnier, at the Palais des Glaces on July 31). This is a period of intense creativity for Don Cherry. “Don made films, in Sweden or elsewhere, participated in lots of projects, a thousand things that I was not aware of. And then he kept asking me to set up different bands for him.“adds Meissonnier. Always in search of new adventures, he accepts the session with Togashi and the musicians meet at the Ramsès studio with Charlie Haden to record the album.

55 mins

Boxed in two days with six compositions by Masahiko Togashi, “Song of Soil” is a superb suite of improvisations highlighting the interaction between the three musicians. Alternating exploratory sequences like June Where Oasis and meditative beaches influenced by the Far East such as Song of Soil, Rain Where Words of Wind Pt 2 – the latter with Cherry’s magnificent flute playing – “Song of Soil” is a hypnotic journey into the “Fourth World” so Cherry is a precursor. Photographer Philippe Gras, who shot the cult short Don Cherry in 1968, is also present to photograph the musicians for the release of the album.


As far as Martin Meissonnier is concerned, these are the beginnings of a meteoric rise that will see him shape the world sound system in the 80s alongside Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade and many raï musicians. A key but little-known album in Don Cherry’s discography, “Song of Soil” is an essential album of Japanese jazz and is a unique encounter between three universes. And so much more than the sum of its parts. It is reissued here in its original format, same order of the pieces, and judiciously increased by an illustrated booklet of 8 pages giving a fascinating overview of this session recorded during the Parisian summer of 1979.
(excerpt from the press release)

Masahiko Togashi, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, unearthed cult album