Carla Kihlstedt / Satoko Fujii

July 2, 2008


Henceforth Records 105

Never underestimate the skill of improvisers in creating a sympathetic concordance, even if they arrive from seemingly incompatible foundations. Case in point is this CD, capturing two ad-hoc meetings between pianist Satoko Fujii and violinist Carla Kihlstedt.

Conservatory-trained, Kihlstedt is now most commonly found with avant-rock or avant-improv ensembles, while Fujii’s arranging and composing for small and large jazz ensembles hasn’t precluded interaction with Japanese folk and rock musicians. Perhaps mindful of the linked chamber music history of their instruments, the two bring advanced improvisational techniques to a combination that serves as a favorite vehicle for so-called classical composers.

Although there are passages that are almost calabetta-like and profoundly legato, the spectre of romanticism that usually informs such meetings has been banished along with pinafores and pearls. Even during rondo passages, both play simultaneously “in” and “out”. Fujii plucks and stops the internal string set, while Kihlstedt vibrates flying spiccato notes.

“Remainder of one, Reminder of two,” the most recently recorded track is also the most illuminative. Spacious and spectral, it demonstrates the interchangeability of roles, as the theme sluices from one instrument to another in broken counterpoint, but without showiness. Staccato and fragmented, this is an intense, near-caricature of a proper chamber piece. Revealingly though, when the fiddler extends her harmonies with foreshortened slices and choked partials, the pianist relies on pedal pressure and low-pitched glissandi to create soundboard dynamics. Still, despite their obvious mutual creativity, the fissure between jazz and non-jazz improvisation is still palpable.

— Ken Waxman

In MusicWorks Issue #101