Review

RYOKO ONO Undine

Album · 2013 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
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3.5/5 ·
js
“Undine” is the latest release from virtuoso avant-garde saxophonist Ryoko Ono, and what a tour-de-force it is. Some may be familiar with Ono as part of the highly talented aural onslaught known as Sax Ruins. In fact, her cohort in Ruins, drummer Tatsuya Yoshida is on hand for some very Sax Ruins styled numbers on here too.

Ono’s solo numbers present an interesting variety. A couple cuts keep up a constant drone of notes and show off her circular breathing technique, a favorite with modern extended technique saxophonists. Her rendition of Terry Riley’s “Piano Phase” is sublime and could have gone on for much longer. “Birds” presents a mish-mash of Charlie Parker lines doubled with altered saxes and vocoders and backed by bird noises, its so clever and adorable you could give it a hug.

Most of the rest of this CD consists of Ono and Yoshida’s insanely intense modern big band that they create through multi-tracking Ono’s various woodwind instruments. Together they create some short drumnbass cuts as well as this CD’s centerpiece, a 15 minute version of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s “Tarkus”, …that’s right, that “Tarkus”. I’m sure that most think that a modern punk-jazz big band playing ELP sounds like a disaster, but this one really works. There was always a strong big band flavor to ELP’s music, with traces of Don Ellis, Stan Kenton and Ellington running through their recorded history, the end result is that their music fits very naturally to this medium. The Ono-Yoshida big band sound is like no one else, in their hands this old ELP warhorse takes off at insanely fast tempos that sound like Squarepusher mixed with Don Ellis on 45 rpm methamphetamines. This isn’t something I would want to hear everyday, but as a fan of modern big band music, this is an exotic treat that can’t be missed.

The album closer, “genie-undine”, has no saxophones but instead features Ono’s multi-tracked vocals in a recreation of the old dreamy vocal sounds of Les Baxter. Its short, but its one of the best cuts on the CD and a great way to close things out.
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more than 2 years ago
Keen to hear this one, have put it on my list.

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