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(59:09, Moonjune Records)
"Upstream" is a multinational collaboration between Geoff Leigh (sax, flutes, percussion, zither, effects) and Yumi Hara (keyboards, vocals), recorded in 2008 and issued in 2009 courtesy of Moonjune Records. Both of them are well established artists, Leigh perhaps most well known for his brief stint with Henry Cow in the early 70's, Hara for her many collaborative efforts. The meeting of these two minds is one of a distinctly improvisational nature. Most often in a free form manner, exploring musical landscapes well outside common norms as far as melodies, tonal ranges and harmonies are concerned, mostly in sparse arrangements, with saxophone and vocals or flute and piano as the most common combinations, with careful percussion and effects usually applied, while the stylistic orientation tends to go towards jazz. Not quite my cup of musical tea, but with excellent instrumental performances. Personally I was most taken with two efforts of a rather different nature, Stone of the Beach and Something about the Sky, which take on more of an ancient, shamanistic expression. The former features chanting vocals and zither, and the latter comes with male vocal drones and non-verbal honed wails by Hara, both pieces flavored with subtle percussion details. Free form jazz enthusiasts with a taste for instrumental excellence will most likely be the key audience for this production, challenging in nature and spirit, but with the occasional accessible performance that will make this production interesting beyond a dedicated niche audience.
Olav M Bjornsen: March 2, 2012
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