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Saturday, August 15, 2009

David Sait - Postage Paid Duets, Vol. 2 (aPRISe, 2009) ****½

Of all the traditional music genres that I've heard, only Andean and Chinese music I find difficult to relate to, often impossible to listen to, hard to swallow, even to the extent of getting almost physical allergic reactions. And I am referring to the original music, not even to the kitschy mutants (Zamfir, Vollenweider, ...) that haunt some highly frequented public places, and that will make your humble servant jump through the nearest window when exposed to it.

But then, you get to hear this pretty unique album, beyond categorization, unlike anything you've heard before. The main instrument is the Chinese guzheng, a zither-like instrument, played by Canada-based David Sait. Because of the instrument's nature, the music has this Chinese twang to it, to say it irreverently, but it is fully improvised avant-garde, played in several duets, with LaDonna Smith on viola, violin and ehru, Gino Robair on a variety of percussion, including motors and bike horn, and Glen Hall on soprano sax and bass flute. The result is pretty stunning. With the limited instrumentation of the duet, quite broad soundscapes are created, some of extreme beauty, some full of wonder and surprise, some of weird sonic intensity, vulnerable, open ... The music is quiet, unobtrusive yet very captivating. The album is the second in a series of "Postage Paid Duets", where the improvisors don't actually meet physically, but improvise based on the other one's taped music, or something to that extent. Despite the geographic and temporal distance, or maybe because of this, the coherence is very strong of all pieces, with the improvisors not wanting to stray too much from the core. I think I've listened to this album a lot in the past week, and I mean a lot, a few dozen times probably, and one time I think I prefer the duets with Robair, then the great interaction with LaDonna Smith, and then another time the sax and flute get the preference, just to demonstrate that the quality is high, and that there is variation, despite the music's unique vision. It isn't jazz, because it's beyond any existing genre, but it will certainly please those interested in free improvisation. A musician with something to tell, and in his own authentic voice. Really great.

Listen and buy from Sait's website.

© stef