What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
Thelonious Monk’s piano. What I'd heard was titled Misterioso, with a [Giorgio] De Chirico painting on its jacket. I was just 21 years old, and it changed my vision toward the structures of harmony.
Also, the paintings of Marc Chagall changed my ears for music. I knew his painting for a quite while. Several years ago, I started to feel I didn't like my improvisation on piano and started trying to find out why. And one day I found it on Chagall’s paintings—especially those arms twisted at some point on their way to extend. And that’s what I was looking for. Since then, my improvisation started to change drastically, because I freed myself from the basics of the overtone series.
Pianist Masabumi Kikuchi has played with the likes of Sonny Rollins, Gil Evans, Bill Laswell, and, most notably, Paul Motian. On Sunrise, a recent solo album for ECM, he pairs Monk's crippled chords with Chagall's Modernism to produce a hushed elegance that's subtle and thrilling. Look for it on Best Of 2012 lists at year's end. And don't be frightened by Kikuchi's Glenn Gould-ish grunting.