Patrick Shiroishi’s “I was too young to hear silence” Influences Playlist

The prolific jazz experimentalist shares the unique sounds that inspired his latest collection of improvised sax recordings.

Patrick Shiroishi’s I was too young to hear silence Influences Playlist

The prolific jazz experimentalist shares the unique sounds that inspired his latest collection of improvised sax recordings.

Words: Will Schube

Photo: Vincent Guilbert

November 08, 2023

Patrick Shiroishi decided to record his new album of experimental saxophone compositions in an…interesting studio. The musician—whose credits extend beyond the countless solo and duo albums he’s released over the past four years with various collaborators to the experimental jazz group Fuubutsushi, as well as being featured on recent releases by The Armed, Injury Reserve, and black metal outfits Agriculture and Yellow Eyes—chose to record I was too young to hear silence with a saxophone, a glockenspiel, two microphones, and a Zoom recorder. He performed the entire album in a single, improvised take, and he did so in a cavernous parking structure below a hot pot restaurant in Monterey Park shortly after midnight. 

The location, which isn’t far from where he grew up, offered the perfect blend of silence and space, a massive, unforgiving concrete behemoth in which his horn could bounce around. “The [album] title kind of refers to when I was younger…I would fill all the space with as many notes and as loud of volume as I could,” he shared in a press statement. “Not saying that there’s any wrong way to play, but for me, after a while, I was confused with what I was trying to say.” Here, there is no confusion, only mastery. It’s an album of patience, beauty, harshness, and experimentation. 

To get a sense of the album’s origins, we asked Shiroishi to share some tracks that helped inspire the making of I was too young to hear silence. Check it out below.

Kaoru Abe, “Well Tempered Alto Saxophone Suite γ”
When I first started getting into free jazz/free improvisation, I mostly found artists that were based in the States (for obvious reasons) and then in Europe. It wasn’t until stumbling onto a blog many years into investigating artists did I find anyone that was Asian. Kaoru was the first, specifically his two duo records with Masayuki Takayanagi: Gradually Projection and Mass Projection. It was also through Kaoru where I discovered PSF and that incredible world and network of musicians...but I digress. The way he plays is so uniquely him—you can hear the urgency, the pureness, but also the torture in his soul. Although his solo work is documented quite well, Partitas holds a special place in my heart for reasons I don’t really know...but you don’t always need to know, right?

Darius Jones, “Figure No. 2”
Darius has a sound like no other. In my eyes he’s the modern day Ornette, who’s been a constant source of inspiration, especially early on. To me, Darius fits in a similar place. I first heard him and Travis [Laplante] through Little Women, a band who fucked me up from the day that I found them in 2007 ’til now. The same can be said about the trio, quartet, and quintet albums he’s put out—his voice on the alto is just inimitable. When I heard that a Darius solo album was coming out I set very high expectations (I mean, how can you not?), and it definitely met them. This is the opening track from the record and shows his sensitivity, versatility, and power with just a matter of notes.

Travis Laplante, “Heart Protector”
One of my favorite shows I’ve ever witnessed was at the Blue Whale (RIP) in LA. Travis performed what was one of the first solo saxophone sets I’d ever seen, and it really made an impact on me. This piece in particular is something I return to often: being able to craft a melody within the multiphonics of the horn…just gorgeous. I’ve still never heard a piece quite like it. Travis has gone on to compose masterful quartet works with Battle Trance, but nothing hits me like this record does.

Martin Küchen, “Allemagne Annee Zero”
Speaking of melody crafters, Martin writes some incredible-ass melodies via Trespass Trio and all the iterations of the Angles band. Although he does touch on melodies in his solo work, Martin tends to focus on investigating extended techniques in a truly personal manner. Here, Martin plays one of the most brutal, saddest melodies I’ve ever heard in a way that only he can. The record that this is on, Hellstorm, was also the first solo saxophone record I heard that had auxiliary instruments supporting the music, an idea that I’ve definitely taken and applied to my own music over the years as well. 

Catherine Sikora, “If Not Today, When?”
Catherine is under-fucking-rated. She doesn’t always hit you with the technical mastery she has of the horn up front, but when she does it’s a beautiful sight to see. Her Corners record is a wonderful presentation of her work—lyrical, technical, but always musical with a well of ideas. This record also has Catherine playing in a very reverberant space and definitely helped reinforce my dreams of recording in a similar environment. Wish I could have been in the audience for these performances, though.

Peter Brotzmann, “The Very Heart of Things”
Brotzmann was the first European free improvisor I came across. Machine Gun was the first record I heard, and subsequently a lot of the records I listened to by him were very intense, brutal, fire-y works. I didn’t seek out any of his solo recordings, and I’m not sure why, but this one from 2015 really got me. The last track on the record, a cover of Ornette’s “Lonely Woman,” really touched me and showed me another side to the gigantic playing that I was used to by Brotzmann. His book We Thought We Could Change the World was also very inspirational when I was feeling super down about playing improvisational music and helped me get my footing back.

Matana Roberts, “Untitled N.1”
Matana’s Coin Coin series is a monumental series of works that I absolutely am in love with and look forward to with each chapter being released. Reflecting back onto family is something that I related to and connected with early on (not to mention the incredible compositions and sequencing and storytelling). What caught me off guard was this solo record that was released in between chapters three and four, an album that really captures Matana’s tone in such a vulnerable state. It makes me appreciate the Coin Coin series even more.

Roscoe Mitchell, “Nonaah (23 August 1976 in Willisau, Switzerland)”
Iconic. If you don’t know the story behind this performance, look it up. It makes listening to the recording 30 times better.

Erin Rogers, “North Star”
Erin is a force on the horn. I love what she does, and it’s a shame the West Coast isn’t graced with her presence more often. I’ve been working on the technique that Erin is using in this piece for a while—a long work in progress if you will. when I heard this piece on her latest solo album, I was so impressed to have heard it used in such a musical way while also having total control (it’s all chance when I try it). Since then I’ve given up on it, but maybe I’ll get back to it one day. Touché, Erin!

Vinny Golia, “Thoughts”
When I think of West Coast saxophone players, the first person I think of is Vinny Golia. Over the years I’ve seen him play from solo saxophone to trio and large ensembles, in tiny-ass bars to concert halls, and everytime I come out inspired. There was a performance where he brought, like, seven horns and had, like, 15 gongs set up in the room, and he would set off the gongs with the vibrations of his playing—it was really something. The solo album this piece is from, aptly titled Solo, isn’t that, but it’s the closest thing recorded I could find. Vinny is a true master and someone who is really generous with his time. Personally I don’t think he’s gotten all the flowers he deserves. To us over here on the West Coast you’re one of the GOATs!

Albert Ayler, “Goin’ Home”
Although not a solo piece of music like everything else on this list, this piece has had a special place in my heart ever since I heard it. Although I think Coltrane is the best to have ever graced the horn, I take more from Ayler in terms of how he crafts his sound. I’d found Spirits and Bells before I found this recording, but when I heard it something just clicked. I covered this cover at my grandmother’s funeral and haven’t played it until just recently at The Met in her honor. 

Masayoshi Urabe, “Solo”
The record that I downloaded years ago that left impressions on me to this day. This is about an hour-long improvisation, and when I first got my hands on it I skipped around to see what it was going to be like. I was confused at first and thought that I’d gotten the wrong file, as everywhere I jumped to was silent. When I finally had time to sit with the entire record I realized that this was with the fullest intent. My own personal playing at the time had been one of always filling the space—it was when listening to this album that I realized that I didn’t have to play like that all the time. The title I was too young to hear silence also a nod to this, among other things.