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|Fred Ho||Primary Artist, Leader, Baritone Saxophone|
|Royal Hartigan||Percussion, Drums|
|David Bindman||Tenor Saxophone|
|Wesley Brown||Bass, Electric Bass|
|Masaru Koga||Shakuhachi, Alto Saxophone|
|Fred Ho||Arranger, Composer, Writer, Concept|
|Arabelle Clitandre||Illustrations, Booklet Design|
|Christine Stark||Composer, Lyricist|
Posted May 21, 2011
This CD consists of two full-length instrumental works , one extracted from the opera, 'Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon' and the other an epic poem, 'Momma's Song'. Included is a very cool booklet complete with very groovy designs and illustrations by Mac McGill and the texts from the two works.
The first thing that jumps out about 'Deadly She-Wolf', are the grooves. These aren't drum machine Jam/Lewis grooves--these are James Brown/Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edward grooves. It's always laid back and in the pocket, no matter how metered and crazy it gets. Also, although the style is pretty eclectic in its east meets westness, there's definitely a jazz-fusion underpinning. Despite the very cool rhythmic and melodic coloration from the koto and shakahachi, this is often 3 steps removed from a fusion Parliament Funkadelic. The other distinguishing feature is there's definitely a Tarantino /spaghetti western epic narrative going on; at once campy then sincere-complete mockery to solemn ritualism. It is serious music but never takes itself too seriously.
Formally in 'She-Wolf', there's a recurring 4th motivic cell in the sax, which unites the whole piece. A lot of the groove sections are divided very effectively by slower sections, that still always manage to keep a hidden pulse. Sometimes these 'between' pieces are just koto and sakahachi settings, which can quickly veer into very wild free jazz, a la Ornette Coleman There's also a lot of very deliberately clunky, ironic heads, which the band effortlessly nails then they're off to locking into a totally different tempo/groove. A cool movement is the 4.th cut 'Round and round Hades we go' is a stunning infectious blend of east/west. The tenth piece nods to the grooveablity of minimalism and the timelessness of big band arrangements.
Ho's sax playing is persistently melodic rarely venturing to the darker side of bebop. He has amazingly expressive stark low notes that have a way of drilling into your brain. Often a Methenyish lyricism pokes through like giant gashes of sunlight.
Praise throughout, to the drummer, Hartigan and keyboardist, Hirahara.
Contrastingly 'Momma's song' opens with some gut-wrenching, fluttered, dirty solos from Ho. Then Jennifer Kidwell narrates the text of a terrible rape of a mother, not only as a metaphor for western imperialists' oppression of indigenous cultures, but of Mother Earth herself. The playing is raw and emotional. Towards the end Kidwell burst into a mix of song and spoken word, sounding a more upbeat epitaph. The finale is a brief return to the fusion jazz found in the first piece.
This recording is fun, serious, and seriously 'fun'ky. Check it out!!