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Phillip Greenlief and Jon Raskin: 2 + 2 with Shoko Hikage and Kanoko Nishi

Phillip Greenlief and Jon Raskin: 2 + 2 with Shoko Hikage and Kanoko Nishi
In the third decade of the 21st century saxophonists Jon Raskin and Phillip Greenlief have been slowly releasing albums from their 2+2 series. These are sessions, both improvised and using Raskin's graphic scores, which match Raskin and Greenlief with two other musicians who play the same instrument.. The second installment, the captivating 2+2 with Shoko Hikage and Kanoko Nishi, matches the saxophonists with two koto players.

The koto is a plucked zither with a harp-like sound. Both Hikage and Nishi live in the San Francisco bay area and are originally from Japan. The former is a lifelong koto player while the latter came to it via the western classical tradition and is also an accomplished pianist.

Both impressionistic and abstract, the album opens with the aptly titled "Night Town." The quartet utilizes melodic fragments and explorations of the entirety of the individual sonic range to construct a haunting performance with a cinematic ambience. Delightfully dissonant and absorbing, the reverberating strings, plucked and hammered, and the breathy tones of saxophones conjure up a serene yet lively nocturnal scene.

A contemplative mood permeates the entire album even on the more spirited tracks such as "The Bucket." Opening with staccato notes from the band, the piece goes on to become a tense dialogue between the saxophones and the kotos. There is also a subtler conversation within each instrumental pair. Gradually, a meditative quietude permeates the atmosphere that bursts of angsty tones punctuate. These coalesce into four simultaneous yet individual solos that sometimes overlap and at others diverge. The result is a darkly undulating tune with interwoven threads that both contrast and complement one another.

The second volume of the 2+2 series is as provocative and moving as the first which featured trumpeters Jen Baker & Liz Allbee. Raskin and Greenlief have found kindred spirits with whom to collaborate in creating their highly unique and absorbing music. This rewarding work whets the appetite for the next 2+2 chapter.

Track Listing

Night Town; 2 + 2; Terrestrial part one: Cardboard, part two: Bottles; Succulents; The Bucket; Matchstick Army.


Jon Raskin
saxophone, baritone
Additional Instrumentation

Shoko Hikage: koto.

Album information

Title: 2 + 2 with Shoko Hikage and Kanoko Nishi | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Self Produced



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