This Ponty early collaborative features the Japanese pianist Masahiko Sato, who is stated as co-leader. Sato in late 60s-early 70s was a true free jazz idol on Japanese scene, so it was curious what could happen with company like this.
Recorded and released in 1970, "Astrorama" contains four originals, three of Ponty's and one of Sato's. Without doubt, it has similar Ponty traits. His violin fusion playing absolutely dominates here and there is some interesting Sato soloing in a few places. In accordance with a long lasting Japanese jazz tradition local musicians tried to collaborate with renowned Western jazz stars, such gigs or recordings were tickets of sort to domestic Jazz hall of fame.
Sato, who at the moment of "Astrorama" recording already had built up the reputation of being a most innovative and revolutionary of Japanese "new jazz" pianist. His playing on electric piano is in order to adapt his very different techniques to Ponty's conservative jazz fusion's requirements. As a result he sounds more as Corea (or Hancock) on their very early fusion recordings. Rest of the band doesn't help much as either, drummer Motohiko Hino (brother of renown trumpeter Terumasa Hino) is well known by his heavyweight drumming manners, fitting better to fusion or rock jazz than to more subtle genres. Unknown guitarist Yoshiaki Masuo doesn't shine much, and the last quintet member is a European mainstream jazz legend Dane Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen. His presence in band for sure increased the quintet status a lot, but physical and quite conservative groovy acoustic bass lines adds even more eclectics to far not very organic band.
As one can expect from such line-up,resulting music is quite a mixed bag. Ponty dominates with quite enthusiastic support from electric guitarist and drummer. Sato balances with different success between electric piano fusion passages and more complex, free and partially psychedelic pieces, not always fitting well…
Still the year is 1970 and creativity is in the air so in whole "Astrorama" is quite rewarding listening, representing one of deviations of classic fusion on the early stage of the genre.
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