On “Minamo” the violinist Carla Kihlstedt and the pianist Satoko Fujii ply the craft of post-jazz musicians all over the world: live, free-improvisation duets. Most records like this imply that the two musicians rarely get a chance to play together. (If they did, they might invest in the partnership more: write some music, book a studio, set up a Web site for the project, give it a name.) And some are perfunctory, of course. But not this one. “Minamo” is extraordinary, a series of tight, dramatic events.
Both Ms. Kihlstedt, who lives in California, and Ms. Fujii, who lives in Japan, have conservatory backgrounds. Both eventually threw themselves into non-genre-specific writing and improvising, drawing on rock, Cecil Taylor, Bartok and much else; you’re more likely to find them in a jazz festival than any other kind. (Ms. Kihlstedt is a member of the bands Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and 2 Foot Yard; Ms. Fujii leads her own trio, quartet and orchestra.) They performed together onstage in 2002 and 2005, in San Francisco and in Wels, Austria, and this disc captures both concerts.
Even without written music the musicians have plenty of ground under their feet: vamps, patterns, echoed motions. Both play with virtuosic precision and a great range of technique, even when the music becomes gestural and built on hummingbird pulses, glassy wipes of the violin strings, dark rumbles of rubbed piano strings. The whole record, but especially the second concert, runs on its own vivid tension. BEN RATLIFF
Carla Kihlstedt and Satoko Fujii are brilliant musicians. This CD was recorded during two Festivals. The first in San Francisco in 2002 and the second was at the “Music Unlimited Meeting” in Wels, Austria in 2005. The latter was where I heard them and was dazzled; I am not easily dazzled.
As Larry Ochs (ROVA Sax Qt.) says in the liner notes: “. . . They show us exactly how improvisation can become the strongest tool in a composer’s toolbox . . .” Both Carla and Satoko tour with other bands. Carla is part of Tin Hat Trio, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Charming Hostess. Satoko performs extensively in Japan and worldwide with Mark Dresser, Jim Black, and Natsuki Tamura among others. Satoko says, Playing with Carla is such a special experience for her as it gets to a place where she never could imagine or hear beforehand. Carla expounds saying: “Playing with Satoko is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. The very first time we played together (which is documented on this CD) we found an inexplicably mutual language that has, since then, been an amazingly fertile playground for us. We always seem to arrive together at places that neither of us could possibly find on our own. It’s one of those rare and exciting moments in which I don’t feel like we’re improvising so much as we’re uncovering whole fields of lost artifacts.”
Henceforth’s quest is to bring to the attention of a contemporary listening audience the work of some of today's most vital artists whose vision crosses the boundaries and expands definitions of contemporary classical, improvised, electronic, and experimental music. Furthering Henceforth’s mission, Kihlstedt and Fujii’s Minamo is an example of powerful genre-bending music.