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The USA based “Beijing Trio” plan to embark on a tour of China sometime in 2000 as they actively tour here in the States. With their inaugural release on “Asian Improv Records, the trio featuring legendary drummer Max Roach, pianist/composer Jon Jang and “ehru” (Chinese violin) expert Jiebing Chen offer the listener something noticeably fresh, magnetically attractive and candidly beautiful...
Jiebing Chen is no stranger to Western musical concepts and techniques, which is evident on fairly recent outings with violinist Bela Fleck and flutist James Newton. Here, Ms Chen is faced with the challenging task of improvising amid Western scales and harmonies along with Mr. Roach’s now infamous and easily identifiable melodic-polyrhythmic approach to drumming along with Jon Jang’s precious and thought provoking piano performances.
The first piece, titled “Moon Over the Great Wall” commences with Roach’s sonorously melodic drumming as he comps, prods and pushes pianist Jon Jang into a series of rhythmic encounters while Jang displays wonderful invention via swirling chord progressions and lush themes. The constant yet multi-tonal pulse moves along in valiant, if not irresistible fashion as Roach is a master of tone and pitch while also providing the deep bottom end here and throughout. On the second track, titled “Sweet Whisper of a Flower”, the listener is introduced to Ms. Chen who now joins Roach and Jang as this Trio integrate East with West, via Ms. Chen’s captivating, sweet-tempered performances on the bowed “erhu”.
Ms Chen is a formidable improviser on this ethnic Chinese instrument which conveys warmth and delicacy as the dialogue heats up a bit on the piece titled, “Now’s the Time”. Jang and Ms Chen perform a sublime yet gorgeous duet on “When the Blossoms Bloom” while Roach and Jang team up on the up-tempo finale “The Flowing Stream”. The music is somewhat mystical, engaging and quite palatable as the great Max Roach could be viewed upon as the common denominator here. Roach provides the “edge” via tumbling rhythmic development and structure while maintaining the flowing heartbeat, which enables Jang and Chen to explore themes in unison or in alternating fashion.
Simply put, this recording is an honest and very successful stab at melding disparate musical elements. Perhaps a paradigm for life as we strive to open up the doors of communication and dispel those old beliefs that some things just can’t happen. --- “The Beijing Trio” have charted a new course, yet it all seems so natural and uninhibited which equates to a thoroughly enchanting listening experience........Recommended!! * * * *
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.