(Red Toucan)

A Japanese expression that approximately means “this and that” distinguishes an album whose contents were recorded in 1999 at New York’s Knitting Factory. The nominal leader is featured on “piano, shakuhachi, hichiriki, shofar, ektara percussion” and he’s finely complemented by Masahiko Kono on trombone, Tomas Ulrich on cello and Kevin Norton on drums, vibes and percussion. Narrates Cohn that he looked to bring together innovative improvising ensembles while still leading his chamber unit, previous works with Thurman Barker in mind. Three sympathetic comrades were found and hired, and we can’t but appreciate the outcome – even almost a decade later. The quartet does possess a penchant for individuating spots where the intercommunication is so highly evolved that contemporary classical music instantly zaps the imagination. I’m especially thinking of the spellbinding central section of “Kombawa”, where Ulrich’s poetic poignancy becomes a much desired spouse to Cohn’s flutes, while Kono peeks and gets away with an instrument certainly not known for levity; yet, in his hands, the trombone is less talkative and more imaginative, unerringly fishing the few notes necessary for the completion of those instantaneous concepts. Norton, who was chosen also in virtue of a “spiritual side”, as per the leader’s words, demonstrates yet again an utter command of the percussive culture and, what’s better, that he knows exactly when the time is right to disappear, only to be back with a vengeance after minutes. The piano figurations remain firmly anchored to a classy refinement certainly not jeopardized by the bolder playing, leading the music towards a lack of restrictions that is all the more appreciable, if disciplined by four or five well-placed rules. Which ones, of course, we will never know.

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