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Minamo: Kuroi Kawa - Black River

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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Minamo, the fiercely creative duo comprising violinist Carla Kihlstedt and pianist Satoko Fujii, has done it again. This time, the duo comes together on Kuroi Kawa - Black River, a magnificent two-CD presentation: the first, a studio set of eighteen short improvised studies of sublime ingenuity; the second, a live performance recorded at the 2008 Vancouver International Festival, featuring longer improvisations first heard on their self-titled 2008 debut, but now completely recast and newly interpreted. Minamo's musical creations echoes with slender beauty and silken elegance. It is almost as if Kihlstedt and Fujii channel Paul Bley and Anton VonWebern together, making a foaming decoction of pure Minamo.

Carla Kihlstedt and Satoko Fujii are singular musical personalities who see two sides of an idea at once. Thus, they are able to create the impression of music that is constantly changing—moving this way and that—even as it travels in a linear manner, like individual melodies running alongside a mirror that constantly turns convex and then concave. "Konoha No Sasayaki - The Murmur of Leaves" is a fine example of the beguiling magic that the two create between one another. It is like a call-and-response, with phrases that turn inside out every time they are exchanged. "Yume No Naka - In The Dream," on the other hand, is more finite; it's a linear, almost mystical early morning dreamscape that forms in dewdrops on piano and violin. Kihlstedt and Fujii create sixteen more sketches that virtually recreate the language of violin-piano duets with a new, highly organic musical metaphor.

The live disc features more lengthy compositions. While length is not necessarily a factor in the veracity or majesty of their improvisations, the musicians use the concert stage to create more theatrical developments. Here, the double album's title track—a dramatic, almost visual piece—turns from an explosive opening to a winding middle section and rhapsodic end. "Midori No Shinkiro - Green Mirage" evolves from a gusty beginning into a shimmering middle passage and then into an elementally sad ending. As the musicians open their minds and use the time to create more expansive vistas, their canvas broadens, and impressions of Stravinsky and Bartók make their way into the conundrum of ideas. The subsequent music is riveting and almost as taut as the strings of piano and violin will endure. It is also fresh, daring, and memorable from one unexpected turn of phrase to the next.

Despite the ultimately finite nature of the program, something nebulous about the music suggests that this is a journey of epic proportions. Somehow, therefore, the expectation is that this is a legend without end and will soon be continued with fresh genius.

Track Listing: CD1: Konoha No Sasayaki -The Murmur of Leaves; Kogane Mushi -Scarab; To Ho - East; Rakuda - Camel; Mado Wo Akeru - Open The Window; Eki Deno Ichi Nichi - One Day at the Station; Suiheisen - Between Sky And Water; Koneko - Kitty; Kagami - Mirror; Kibo - Hope; Tsuchi No Naka - In The Ground; Sora No Naka - In The Sky; Arabesque; Maho No Jyutan - Magic Carpet; Amadare - Raindrop; Yume No Naka - In The Dream; Kamikazari - Berette; Chiheisen - Sky And Land. CD2: Kuroi Kawa - Black River; Aoi Saka - Blue Slope; Murasaki No Natsu - Purple Summer; Akai Kaze - Red Wind; Midori No Shinkiro - Green Mirage; Shropi Arashi - White Storm.

Personnel: Carla Kihlstedt: violin, trumpet violin, voice; Satoko Fujii: piano, accordion, voice.

Title: Kuroi Kawa - Black River | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Tzadik

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