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Monday, June 6, 2022

Masayo Koketsu - FUKIYA (Relative Pitch Records, 2022)

By Keith Prosk

Masayo Koketsu breathes and blows one 47’ alto saxophone solo on FUKIYA.

Recent recordings include two live sets alongside other altoists, François Carrier with Daisuke Fuwa and Takashi Itani on contrabass and percussion for Japan Suite and Lao Dan with Deng Boyu and Li Daiguo on percussion and pipa for Burning Bookshop II . As well as a tenor saxophone solo in the contingent environment of Hossawa Falls. On her debut studio solo FUKIYA, these directions might culminate in a sound that seeks the soul of the saxophone with a mindfulness towards sonic interactions outside of the instrument.

Sustained soundings, melodic tunes, writhing skronk, phrases occur in spurts. It draws the ear towards breath. Regular pauses reveal its limits but also delineate its use as material. It fills silences, some too long to be anything other than a call to listen to breath.

Leveraging another interdependent phenomena outside of the instrument in aural perception, the juxtaposition of soft and loud dynamics induces moments like attenuating vision after a flash of light. The recognition that gradual resaturation does not accurately reflect the instant cause of lightning or a flood of sun into a dark room, that experience can be separated from reality. While the effect is less severe quick transitions between textures or speeds, hoarse overblows and piercing whistling or durational sustain and breakneck acrobatics can feel similarly. Together breath - or a pause with presence - and perceptual play seem to place the saxophone as only a mediator for the shared experience of performer and audience, not just generally but profoundly here, where the performer stops to listen and the listeners acknowledge their part in the creation of the experience.

But the instrument is not just an accessory, and FUKIYA regularly glimpses the heart of the alto, its harmonics. Sustained soundings split out overtones. Repeated sequences and fast dyads amplify the spectra between them. Quavering vibrato stokes alto’s overtone glow. And fierce honks surrounded by silence profile harmonic decay.

It is not so ascetic as I have probably made it seem, and there’s a playful energy. A flurry of raspberries, slap tonguing, and key clicks in the final moments feels like a comedic jab at saxophone solo expectations after such a focused set.