Ryoko Ono/Rogier Smal

Wood Moon
Jvtlandt JVT0016/Toztizok Zoundz TOZ017

Half- facetiously Emily Remler once joked that she wasn’t really a young female Jazz guitarist, but the reincarnation of an old male jazz guitarist from years earlier. The same jape could be applied to Ryoko Ono. Instead of really being a young saxophonist from Nagoya, Japan, she could be the reincarnation of Cleveland’s Albert Ayler, who would be 80 of he was alive today, a lot older than Wes Montgomery or Grant Green would have been if Remler saw them in the 1970s.

At the same time in terms of the ferocity, the way she and Dutch drummer Rogier Smal blitzkreig the nine untitled tracks have the velocity and power of fictional Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel showing how the usual zero to 10 volume knob goes up to 11. From the get-go, like the desiccated vocal tones of her namesake, Yoko Ono, Ono’s reed program is nearly always altissimo pitched or higher, sharper than a fencing saber and shrill enough to inflect flesh wounds on any of the ears’ receptor organs. On “Wood Moon 4” she moans in a raspy, syllable-retching delivery that makes the vocalizations of Ayler and Y. Ono appear almost dulcet. With sophisticated technical command of her instrument as well, she tongues elongated phrases from her alto without a pause almost before she finishes intoning.

Ono, who is also part of the SaxRuins duo, and Amsterdam-based Smal, who has played with similarly outer-directed saxophones like Marshall Allen and Colin Webster, have also adopted Punk Rock-like condensed rapidity to Free Improvisation. As robustly quirky in his playing as she is in hers, Smal gives as good as he gets. If she wallows in the prickly spaces between timbres with bagpipe chanter-like overtones, he sets up a reasonable rhythmic facsimile that challenges and accompanies at the same time. “Wood Moon 9” for instance, may be described from Ono’s side as a symphony in screech and multiphonics, but here, as throughout the disc, his balanced cymbal clunks, whapped bass drum pressure and pulsated rolls clear a contrapuntal yet unswerving path through the miasma. Like a canny physiotherapist who knows exactly how much pressure to apply to the affected area, a track such as “Wood Moon 7” makes Ono’s output sound controlled as Smal mates it with maracas-like shakes. Never doubt that Ono is in control of her horn as well. Eastern Europe-styled freylach-styled saxophone timbres are heard after multiphonic runs on “Wood Moon 6” for instance. This downshifted interlude lets the drummer’s cymbal echoes and thunderous rolls do the heavy lifting.

Not a session Smooth Jazz fanciers or those who insist on coherent story telling will like. But if you’re inured enough to noise for its own sake – as anyone who has been listening to Rock music since the 1960s should be – then Wood Moon may impress on investigation.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Wood Moon 1 2. Wood Moon 2 3. Wood Moon 3 4. Wood Moon 4 5. Wood Moon 5 6. Wood Moon 6 7. Wood Moon 7 8. Wood Moon 8 9. Wood Moon 9

Personnel: Ryoko Ono (alto saxophone and voice) and Rogier Smal (drums)