Saturn’s Finger is a new release by the trio which calls itself “Maybe Monday” consisting of saxophonist Larry Ochs, guitarist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Fred Frith along with master “koto” performer Miya Masaoka who also utilizes various electronics. Recorded live in Chicago, July 1998, Saturn’s Finger is currently released in Europe and Japan only. At this juncture, the expected release date in the States is January 2000.
What we have here are three performers who possess extensive, disparate resumes along with exemplary credentials. The title track, Saturn’s Finger clocks in at 33 minutes and features unabashed, serious minded improvisation as Larry Ochs assumes the role of the speaker or lead voice via his articulate, full bodied phrasing and implementations of contrasting tonal colors. The proceedings continue with Fred Frith’s masterful guitar work as he whips the pace into full throttle with feverish and rapid fire strumming. Here, Ms Masaoka provides a backwash of electronics while the listener partakes in this journey into the cosmos.........Surreal interludes, dreamscapes fulfilled along with artful improvisation while Ms Masaoka’s proficient “koto” performances become more prominent as the piece develops, which adds an entirely different dimension to the overall vibe. Mid way into “Saturn’s Finger”, Fred Frith’s subtle utilization of tremolo on his electric guitar evokes sounds that seem to emanate from some undetermined origin. Frith proceeds to twist his guitar into knots along with adept utilization of harmonics, which could be some deranged version of “Flight of the Bumblebee”. A mixed bag of themes, contrasts and delectable intricacies along with some truly deceptive tactics come to light as though the band - “Maybe Monday” were shamans of some unknown habitat.
The piece, titled, “Helix” features Ochs’ whirling and circular phrasing on soprano sax supported by Frith’s delicate, pensive guitar performances and Masaoka’s fleet-fingered koto work. A strange yet beautiful tone ensues as the composition becomes somewhat penetrating and gradually intensifies which counterbalances the third and final work titled, “Beyond The Hard Darkness”. Here, Frith’s electric guitar sounds like a piece of machinery while Ochs’ scat singing approach to the tenor sax and Masaoka’s up front employment of electronics maintain the metronome like pulse.......
Saturn’s Finger is a multifarious extravaganza featuring some of the finest improvisers on the planet. The dawn of a new age? Perhaps – yet the trio calling themselves “Maybe Monday” celebrate the vitality of the spirit through dazzling interplay.........fascinating stuff! * * * * 1/2
Larry Ochs; Saxophones: Miya Masaoka; Koto & Electronics: Fred Frith; Electric Guitar.