|Three San Francisco Bay Area masters come together here to play music composed by Larry Ochs for the unusual trio of saxophone, cello, and Japanese koto. Joan Jeanrenaud resigned from Kronos in 2000 and moved quickly into the world of structured improvisation. Her beautiful cello playing on this CD shines. Miya Masaoka, on this, her third CD with Ochs, once again stands out on koto, stretching the boundaries of the instrument while holding down the center of the music. Larry Ochs contributes the heartfelt compositions and some amazing saxophonics. An absolutely special CD.
Recorded in 2002 in Oakland, California at Headless Buddha Studio.
REVIEW:Of all of Ochs’ non-ROVA projects in recent years—The Secret Magritte band, the
Drumming Core, and Maybe Monday (with Masaoka and Fred Frith)—this one may be the most satisfying. And though its title almost replicates that of a great Cecil solo record (a couple more “Flys” would have gotten us there), this trio creates music that is far more serene than surging, or smoldering than shrieking.
In other contexts, I’ve had a bit of a hard time getting my head around Masaoka’s koto playing, not so much because it seems enigmatic as because I haven’t always been sold on her quite idiomatic playing within frequently n o n - i d i o m a t i c
improvising contexts. Here, however, she is marvelous (perhaps because of the extremely melancholy mood which dominates).
The first two tracks are often rapturous, and if anyone has doubts about whether former Kronos Quartet member Jeanrenaud can improvise they will be quickly dispelled. I simply
love what the cellist brings to the table—given the musical literature she performed with the fabled string quartet, it is little surprise that she has mastery over a huge range of extended techniques. But she also has a real structural radar that suits
Ochs’ pieces to a tee (these pieces often evolve, strangely enough, in ways that evoke a late Shostakovich quartet of all things—that is, if he’d written for koto and tenor sax, too).
Ochs’ writing combines notation, structured improvisation, and
a system of cues—at times there are directions about when (but not what) to play, at times the inverse; there are predetermined moods or feels, but not notation in some pieces; and elsewhere, graphic scores establish a challenging landscape for the trio to navigate. While there is a drifting, textural feel to much of this album, the trio is too sharp to release a whole disc (or even a whole performance) of just this. There is walking swing pulse in “Mystery Street” and a fine unison line on “Heart of the Matter,” just for example, so these in need of some written kernels to grasp will be satisfied. As expressive as each voice is, what makes them so powerful is their restraint and audible respect for each other (evident not just in the terrific
interplay but in the silences, too). This is a really fine recording.
Jason Bivins/ Cadence Magazine / July, 2004