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Thursday, June 19, 2014

East-West Collective - Humeurs (RogueArt, 2013) *****

By Stef 

Probably the hardest thing to explain or even share with somebody else is the esthetic beauty of sound. You can only experience it, and this album is a great introduction to that concept. Great improvised music is often played outside of fixed genres, looking for innovations and moving boundaries, while at the same time finding a common language for the musicians involved. Again, this album is a great example of this. The band is led by Didier Petit, who wrote all but one of the pieces, on cello and voice, with Miya Masaoka on koto, Xu Fengxia on guzheng and voice, Sylvain Kassap on clarinets and Larry Ochs on tenor and sopranino saxophones.

The outcome is exceptional, because there is no such thing as continental cultural divides, no such things as incompatible instruments, while at the same time all musicians are true to their own voice and sound, even if that sound by itself goes beyond the tradition of their respective instruments. You can call the result magic, and that's probably what it is. The music flows slowly, with all instruments cautiously contributing to the overall sounds, weaving phrases together on a bright canvas of sky, full of respect for each other, full of carefully added touches of emphasis, finding their way through the roadmap that Petit sketched. As such, it is hard to speak of compositional structure, with themes or harmonic guidelines or repetitive patterns even. There is no sense of urgency, no sense of self even, no soloing, no sense of drama, just instruments beautifully contributing to the whole. The music flows, from one musician to the other, with phrases coming and going like waves on a stream, and all this with a deep emotional, or even spiritual, authenticity, full of fragile and sensitive moments while being at the same time direct and stubborn.

In sum, a great and coherent musical vision, with character and soul, and with wonderful mastery of the instruments, and much stronger than the excerpts you find on Youtube, even if the one below will gives you a perspective on what you can expect.

Available from Instantjazz.

If you like this music, I can easily recommend two albums also with Miya Masaoka and Larry Ochs, which received a five-star rating. 

Larry Ochs, Miya Masoaka, Peggy Lee - Spiller Alley (RogueArt, 2008)

Larry Ochs/Joan Jeanrenaud/Mija Masaoka - Fly Fly Fly (Intakt, 2002)