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Fred Van Hove/ Shih-Yang Lee: Galactic Alignment

Mark Corroto By

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Imagine what is was like when man first discovered fire. Fire! How his life changed, his dinner could be cooked, and soon after that (in the history of the universe terms) he was playing video games. Same could be said for the first musician to improvise. Next came New Orleans jazz, which could be documented by the wax cylinders, then shellac, vinyl, and today digital.

That sound of American jazz traveled to Europe, and in the 1960s fire was rediscovered with the invention of European free jazz. Pianist Fred Van Hove was there at the genesis, recording the pioneering Machine Gun (FMP, 1968) with Peter Brötzmann's Octet and then becoming a driving force in the European improvising scene.

Fast forward to 2012 and the 75 year old pianist travels to Taiwan, a land with almost no tradition of improvised music. And fire is rediscovered again. Galactic Alignment documents a live performance, both solo and in duo with 30 year old Taiwanese pianist Shih-Yang Lee. The young marvel admits he had very few Van Hove recordings to preview, but that certainly is not evident in their musical exchange. Lee leads the improvising quartet Ka Dao Yin that has released Four Characters (NCAA, 2011) and Next (Jazzhus Disk, 2013). The quartet plays a sort of slow motion improvisation with a combination of instruments: the Western piano and saxophone and Chinese sheng and guzheng.

The CD and accompanying DVD document the concert with the first two tracks by Lee, "Improvisation On The Name Of F-R-E-D" and "Repetitive Tics," one by Van Hove "Winter in Motion," then a series of duo performances. Van Hove seems to reinvent fire each time he plays, or at least reimagine its discovery by fusing classical technique with his own. Then the same can be said for Lee. His rapid-fire skipping technique is part wushu, part knuckle/forearm rolling reminiscent of Don Pullen, the great American pianist.

In tandem the pair begin inside the piano. A combination of prepared piano and fluxus performance, "Games Inside Wooden Frames" progresses to the keyboards and the most intimate dialogue. The remarkable confidence in playing is the two pianists' understanding. Viewing the video before immersion into the pure audio may be the preferred approach because this duo is quite unimaginable without witnessing their discovery.

Track Listing: Improvisation On The Name Of F-R-E-D; Repetitive Tics; Winter In Motion; Games Inside Wooden Frames; Continuing Reverse; Encounter; Counterpoint; Epilogue; DVD: Galactic Alignment : Piano Duo Improvisation.

Personnel: Fred Van Hove: piano; Shih-Yang Lee: piano.

Title: Galactic Alignment | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Kandala Records

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