Joe Fonda/Xu Fengxia: Distance
Each player brings a distinct personal collection of ideas to the plate. Fonda, who has at various points in his career steeped himself in straight-ahead jazz, the blues, and the avant-garde, pursues a on-and-off combination of all three. His bass playing is pulsing and understated, avoiding the busy approach that generally characterizes bass playing on solo and duo records. He tends toward a rhythmic plucking approach, avoiding the bow, and inserts plenty of legato vocals. Fengxia, who has a similarly eclectic range, also brings a great helping of traditional Chinese music to the plate. If you can imagine a Shanghai musical conception with touches of a rockin' groove on top, you've captured the essence of much of her playing. Unlike Fonda, who tends to exclusively perform either vocals or bass, Fengxia demonstrates a capacity to vocalize and play at the same time. (Perhaps a relic of her experience in rock bands.)
The fundamental question with this recording (like any cross-cultural, cross-stylistic experiment) is whether there are enough sympathetic vibrations to make it work. On Distance, the answer is a definite yes. Of course, the listener must be prepared for some peculiar combinations of sound, as well as some abrupt changes of course during the improvisation. An open-minded listener will find this record offers much novelty and depth. And it's strikingly well-recorded, with attention to bass extension and dynamics.
Track Listing: Happy Chinaman; A Journey into the Desert; Underwater Market Selling Clocks; Monastery on the Peak of a Glacier; Some Silent Movies.
Personnel: Joe Fonda: bass, voice; Xu Fengxia: guzheng, voice.
Record Label: Leo Records
Style: Modern Jazz