157

Joe Fonda/Xu Fengxia: Distance

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
This release documents a May '99 collaboration between New York bassist Fonda and Shanghai guzheng player Fengxia. (The performance, oddly enough, took place in Germany. The guzheng is a stringed instrument resembling the koto.) The ironic title of Distance refers to both the geography and the musical conception behind this disc. Given their relatively brief collaboration, these two players have a remarkable intuitive understanding of each other's approach to the music. For the most part, Fengxia takes the lead, directing changes in style, dynamics, and tempo.

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.

Title: Distance | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Leo Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Triple Double CD/LP/Track Review Triple Double
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 21, 2017
Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "Astrometrics" CD/LP/Track Review Astrometrics
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "Groovin'" CD/LP/Track Review Groovin'
by Jeff Winbush
Published: November 2, 2016
Read "Amour Cruel" CD/LP/Track Review Amour Cruel
by Peter Jurew
Published: July 29, 2017
Read "In The Past" CD/LP/Track Review In The Past
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 2, 2017
Read "Skylines" CD/LP/Track Review Skylines
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: November 13, 2016
Read "Live in Tokyo" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Tokyo
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 18, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.