Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Kenso - In The West CD (album) cover



Jazz Rock/Fusion

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Steve Hegede
5 stars Along with about a thousand other prog fans, I was very fortunate to see these guys play live at the Progfest 2000 festival. KENSO put on one of the most intense, and tight performances I've ever seen live, and although I was completely unfamiliar with their music before that night, the combination of complex fusion-esque guitar work, dual keyboards, Japanese melodies, AREA-like bass work, and a drummer who used his kit like a war machine won us newbies over in a matter of 10-minutes. The band got standing ovations after every composition 15-minutes into their set! In The West is a 1997 live release from a show at the On Air West club in Tokyo, and although their set back then wasn't as smoking as the one at Progfest 2000, they still put on a great show. Their music falls somewhere between fusion and symphonic progressive rock. Try to imagine ICEBERG mixed with an instrumental LOCANDA DELLE FATE. The leader of the band, Yoshihisa Shimizu, is gifted both as a guitarist and a composer. He enjoys creating compositions that alternate between heavy fusion and melodic symphonic prog, and he has an incredible talent for creating memorable riffs, and hooks. Many of his guitar melodies, and compositional themes, are based on Japanese scales, which is unique to hear in the world of fusion. Do yourself a favor and check out KENSO. "In The West" is a perfect place to start.
Report this review (#4236)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars ****1/2

This is a live album that was recorded at On Air West in Tokyo. The band is in great shape and it is expected because Kenso has a reputation of a great live act. The musicianship is simply superb. If somebody doesn't know the music they perform is clearly in the fusion side although occasionally it sounds more like symphonic. It is very melodic fusion where the keyboards have a big part of the overall sound as well. There are not many fusion groups with two keyboardists in the line-up but this band indeed has. The effect of alternating symphonic landscapes and furious fusion passages is taken to its maximum. Fast changes in moods and I must say I like it. The interplay between the musicians is wonderful and very powerful. The musicians shouldn't be raised above other in a group like this but the guitarist and drummer make the biggest impression on me. But like I said, it is all about the splendid interplay here. This is a good place to start with this group though they have many other live albums worth checking as well.

Conclusion: Great live album by this fantastic group!

Report this review (#44080)
Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars An instrumental, jazzy Yes.

I know, I know....that's oversimplifying things. But that was my first impression when I heard this cd (in much the same way that many people have characterized the sound of the group Niacin as "an instrumental, jazzy ELP"). Even though the Kenso sound is probably better compared to groups like Happy the Man, Focus or Bruford, there seems to be a lot more symphonic-progginess to their jazz-fusion music that sets them apart from those bands. Imagine Yes playing prog-fusion instrumentals.

Their unique sound is further differentiated by the interjection of Japanese scales and melodies in many of the compositions. Plus they have TWO keyboard players (Kenichi Mitsuda and Kenichi Oguchi), which is unusual for a jazz fusion ensemble, and adds to the symphonic prog references. Masayuki Muraishi plays some monster drums with very inventive ideas over some complex time signature changes, and bass player Shunji Saegusa plays a clear, heavy-sounding bass with a lot of melody (think Chris Squire....with shades?). The leader of the group and main songwriter is guitarist Yoshihisa Shimizu - a great talent, reminding me at times of Steve Howe and Stanley Whitaker (of HTM).

Favorites on this cd include Sora Ni Hikaru (from their second album), Beginnings, and Mediterranean and Aryan...but there aren't any clunkers on the whole cd, folks.

Do not hesitate to buy this cd if you like any of the bands I mentioned above. It is GREAT, and the sound quality is superb. Many of Kenso's albums are kind of hard to get, so this live performance from 1997 provides sort of a "best of" with the band at their peak. Plus some of their other live albums (of which there are several) are either of poorer sound quality or contain most of the same song titles found here on this album. This is the one to get! Start your Kenso collection here. You won't be disappointed.

Report this review (#119851)
Posted Thursday, April 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you like instrumental symphonic prog (particularly Genesis' "Los Endos") and progressive fusion as performed by Bruford (especially ONE OF A KIND), National Health or Brand X, and if you wish there were much MORE of it, then Kenso's the right band for you!

Kenso are a Japanese band who like to build upon the above-mentioned styles, but only in order to do their Very Own Thing. I'll gladly go even further and point out they're one of the most convincing prog bands to emerge since the 1980s. In my view, their (instrumental) albums are far more interesting than anything Spock's Beard or The Flower Kings have ever done. The only reason for their relative obscurity must be that they are leading fairly reclusive lives in faraway Japan. If I'm not mistaken, their leader (and main composer), Yoshihisa Shimizu, is a dentist.

Hmm... Wonder what heavenly music he pipes into his waiting room?

Report this review (#125346)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars In the West is a live, studio-ready recording from On the West, Tokyo performances of Kenso in Sep 1997. (After having my PC's Microsoft Word crash three times after this last sentence ? I try and push on and remember exactly what I was going to say, again!) This excellent recording showcases a group that perfectly dances the knife-edge twixt progressive rock and jazz fusion. At times they remind me of Return to Forever and then The Dixie Dregs. Even hints of Happy the Man are detected. Kenso is a well-kept Japanese secret to most fusion fans.

Guitarist Yoshihisa Shimizu handles the fret board like Steve Morse and Stanley Whitaker. I even hear Scandinavia's Finnforest or Spain's Iceberg visceral-fusion, axe attack in Shimizu's phrasings. Expect loads of keyboard interplay and unison lines. Compositions are complex, engaging, twisting, stop-n-go flourishes. A myriad of time-sigs make this weave of sound an astonishingly intricate mosaic of textures. Not one but two keyboardists add to the punch and fullness of Kenso's sound. Kenichi Oguchi and Kenichi Mitsuda are a fine team of synth players. Both Shimizu and Oguchi pen songs with Shimizu creating 12 of the 14 songs. Each song's a beautiful aural experience, transporting the listener through virtuoso jazz fusion and superbly structured, progressive rock -- Mahavishnu Ork-ish one moment and Yes-like the next.

Shunji Saegusa is Kenso's memorable bassist and Masayuki Muraishi demolishes the drums like a good fusion/progger percussionist should. I refuse to recommend any track over the next. They each have their own special merit. For high-energy, serious soul-fired tunes that will be a collector's item one day I heartily recommend Japan's Kenso.

Report this review (#2582093)
Posted Thursday, July 29, 2021 | Review Permalink

KENSO In The West ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of KENSO In The West

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.