Leroy Jenkins' Driftwood rarely floats, but readily burns. In addition to the violinist leader, pianist Denman Maroney and percussionist Rich O'Donnell, Min Xiao-Fen joins on pipa, a four-stringed lute from 7th Century China. A classically trained musician, Xiao-Fen began improvising with the encouragement of John Zorn, Wadada Leo Smith and Derek Bailey. The quartet roils with sound and ideas, frequently creating tones and timbres that seem anything but acoustic.
Jenkins and Xiao-Fen lead the momentum on "To Live, with O'Donnell busily beating and Maroney adding unusual acoustics from his prepared piano. Jenkins spins a ribbon of melody while Xiao-Fen deftly plucks plenty pizzicato. "To Sing offers each player an extended solo statement. Maroney opens with the piano prepared in such a way as to make the muted strings sound like they're sliding on their own. Jenkins enters keening high delicate spiraling tones. O'Donnell bubbles up out of deep sound, before settling on drums. Xiao-Fen begins subtly but digs in sounding like her instrument is looped. The others join for an ensemble finish.
After a fast start, To Run features a furious group improvisation that keeps all parties highly engaged. Jenkins slyly introduces "To Believe, a quieter ensemble piece that swells and retreats around Jenkins' probing bow.
Living up to its title, The Art of Improvisation features four bristling performances crafted in the moment by the highly attentive ensemble, merging and emerging through their shared creations.
Personnel: Min Xiao-Fen: pipa, Leroy Jenkins: violin; Denman Maroney: piano; Rich OíDonnell: