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Monday, December 7, 2009

Minamo - Kuroi Kawa/Black River (Tzadik, 2009) ****

Two years ago I was quite enthusiastic by the release of the "Minamo", a live album by Satoko Fujii and Carla Kihlstedt, who now get the possibility to continue their collaboration on the better known Tzadik label, and I hope it will give them more exposure. Fujii has been one of my favorite musicians of the last years, and I've been a fan of Kihlstedt ever since I first heard the Tin Hat Trio many years ago. They both are music lovers and genre devourers, capturing everything from classical, traditional music, folk, avant-garde, country, jazz, soundtrack, to new music. Both are very prolific in terms of musical output, working on a large variety of projects at the same time : Kihlstedt plays in ten different outfits, from folk to classical over rock and avant-garde, Fujii has her big band, quartets, trios, solo performances, world music with Gato Libre, or avant-garde jazz with Larry Ochs's Stone Shift.

The album consists of two CDs, one with eighteen short pieces recorded in the studio, the other one with six longer live improvisations. And that concept is a very lucky one, because it shows the artists' breadth of range in the short pieces, the quantity of things they have to tell and offer, like a rich menu with lots of different choices, whereas the live setting gives them time to explore the ideas, to structure the improvisation and expand on them. On one track of the first CD Fujii plays accordion and Kihlstedt trumpet violin, which offers additional variation.

Out of this huge musical baggage and technical skills, their only ambition here is to create something entirely new, never heard before, tearing to pieces what they've heard before, but lovingly, and reconstructing it into something entirely different, full of red-hot passion and intensity, sometimes dissonant or atonal, yet sometimes very melancholy and accessible, or joyful and fun, or fresh and light, or full of drama and gravity, and especially on the second CD, you get a mix of it all. Their message seems clear : "music is music : it's what it says that is important, not what box it fits in".

The greatest strength of the album is the perfect symbiosis between the two musicians, who find each other seamlessly and manage to deconstruct and to create something as out of one mind and heart.

Listen and download from iTunes.

© stef