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House of Waters: Rising

Jim Worsley By

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A musical instrument with a sounding board or box, typically trapezoidal in shape, over which strings of graduated length are stretched and played by being struck with handheld hammers. Step to the head of the class if you immediately knew this was describing a dulcimer. It's not an instrument generally associated with jazz. Come to think of it, when was the last time you even heard the word dulcimer used in a sentence?

What you WILL hear from House of Waters is a synthesis of dense musical influences seemingly limitless in their scope. Together, Max Zt, classically trained on the dulcimer, and co-founder and bassist Moto Fukushima have astutely revolutionized a genre defying soundscape that encompasses a diversity of musical cultures dating as far back as the Renaissance. Cerebral in depth of composition and musicianship, House of Waters dares us to evolve, exquisitely and deftly bordering on the edge of comprehension. Drummer Ignacio Rivas Bixio rounds out the trio with opulent levels of percussion. Although "rounds" is not an appropriate word to explain the copious diversity of geometric shapes and sizes that emerge on Rising.

It opens with a brief revisit, entitled "Renew," of their previous self-titled record—House of Waters (Ground Up 2016)—that took us afloat to another place while encircling their hybrid sounds of the past and present. It picks up the conversation where we left off, before conceptualizing and then embarking on a quest of appreciation, exploration, and enrichment that is vitalized by the raw energy emitted in this recorded-live-in-the-studio endeavor. The exuberance of their two-day live recording sessions is highlighted by their spontaneous improvisation. First, basking in the free flying exhilaration of the moment with "Kites," the trio displays the adept instrumentation and vivid imagery that is to become synonymous with this record. "When I Play" is a charismatic illustration of the signature chemistry between Max and Moto. It is also adroitly tempo-driven and sewn together by Rivas-Bixio. "Wedding Song" marries old-world tradition with a modern world-music texture. It's a piece that features wonderous and imaginative upper-echelon bass from Moto. The trio passionately captures the glowing hearts and unbridled excitement of a lifetime of adventures that await.

A major take-away from listening to House of Waters is the aforementioned chemistry between Max and Moto, but moreover the depth of conversation. An exemplary representation of that is heard on "The Wall." Their compelling instrumental story-telling is briskly paced by Rivas-Bixio. A ballad needs to be impressive to be referred to as epic. "Together" is epic. Brilliant, once again, in musicianship, it is a time of reflection, an introspective appreciation of where they have come to be and how they got there. Max ZT has been called the Jimi Hendrix of the hammered dulcimer. There are good reasons for that, none more apparent than the intensity of wonder he explores on "Midnight." Just how he can emote such remarkably spirited, dulcet, yet intense resonance is anyone's guess. The word virtuoso is over-used (unlike the word dulcimer...ha!) but, if the shoe fits. In imagery, "Midnight" could be a glorious night gazing at the stars. Musically, it is the kind of song that could be, and likely is to be, stretched in a live performance, pushing its intensity even further. The remarkable session comes to an end with the only song on the record that is not an original. With Sting's "Shape of my Heart," we are left with an elegant piece of contemplation. An interpretation that echoes as a gesture to remember them by, and as a thank-you for coming along for the ride.

Building upon a fresh, inspiring, imaginative, and unprecedented intersection of jazz and prog rock, House of Waters reinvigorates the movement with this new and vibrant assemblage of creativity. Centuries in the making, Rising is a defining moment in twenty-first century fusion.

Track Listing: Renew; Kites; When I Play; Wedding Song; The Wall; Together; Midnight; Shape Of My Heart.

Personnel: Max ZT: hammered dulcimer; Moto Fukushima: six string electric bass; Ignacio Rivas-Bixio: drums and percussion.

Title: Rising | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: GroundUP

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