Ken Waxman - The Whole Note
If Japanese free improvisers are little known outside of a small coterie, imagine the situation for a Korean saxophonist committed to experimental music. Yet An Eternal Moment (NoBusiness Records NBCD 115 nobusinessrecords.com) is a 76-minute live 1995 Yamaguchi concert by Japanese percussionist Midori Takada and alto saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan, visiting from Seoul. One track is an extended solo saxophone meditation and the last, Dan-Shi, posits what sonic challenge would result if sax/drum duos like it mixed narrow, high-pitched, sometimes barely audible reed explorations, with gamelan-like marimba pops and sizzling cymbal hisses, besides regular drum beats. However, the key paring is the nearly 42-minute Syun-Soku, During the exposition, Hwan’s strained reed vibrations work up to lacerating split tones and down to narrowed ghost notes, then up to bagpipe-like overblowing timbre-smears as Takada hits tuned aluminum bars and shakes reverberating cymbals. Rhythmic drum taps spark thin chirps from the saxophonist, who soon seems able to simultaneously output a slim, whistling tone and more rounded coloratura variations. Reaching the first climax at mid-point, the narrative slows down to the extent that Hwan’s dissonant slurps seem to be being pushed back into his horn’s body tube. Crashing ruffs from the percussionist become non-metered whacks in opposition, helping to transform reed multiphonics into low-pitched trills that neatly affiliate with unforced cymbal patterns, leading to a finale that links splash cymbal power with retrained reed snarls. Politically and sociologically Asia is no longer the Mysterious East for most Westerners. These CDs could provide a similar demystification of sound when it comes to improvised music.