Kobi/Ikeda/Sugimoto/Ikeda

あった! atta! (I have just found it)
Monotype Records mono093

Embedding himself within the Japanese reductionist Onkyo scene, visiting Swiss tenor and soprano saxophonist Christian Kobi demonstrates the parameters of reed minimalism during his mid-length solos throughout most of this CD. More critically the one lengthy quartet track confirms that a quartet of Kobi, guitarist Taku Sugimoto, flutist Wakana Ikeda and violinist Yoko Ikeda can create satisfying textures at the same unforced low volume as a single player.

A composer, teacher and member of the so-called serious music all-saxophone Konus Quartett, Bern-based Kobi has also played with free improvisers such as John Butcher and Urs Leimgruber. Like those solo reed avatars, he constantly probes his horn(s)’ adaptability; and here he concerns himself with multiple technical and textural considerations. Oddly his one soprano saxophone track only involves reed osculation and whistles with sonic suggestions of a faucet being turned on and off. However his tenor saxophone work is more distinctive. Floating, contralto, near-flute-like breaths are piled atop on another with timbres barely more than whispers. Broken octave and tongue-slapping overblowing may characterize his first solo and withdrawn fades silence the second. Yet the most assertive track, “Tenor saxophone solo 3” features progressive motifs surging with snarls, bites and buzzes, until he tongue manipulates skyscraper-high pitches into distinct clear tones by the finale.

Guitarist Sugimoto, who has concertized with western microtonalists such as cellist Mark Wastell, is virtually silent within the quartet improvisation. Except for near-inaudible peeps and squeaks so are the others, save for someone outputting an unattributable sawing ostinato. Mid-way through however sul ponticello strings swipes are matched by acutely pitched horn timbres that eventually divide the four players so that ethereal string shimmies vie for space with low-pitched theme elaboration. Surmounting an unexpected string buzz the narrations finally fades away like a blowing wind.

Although it may be difficult to articulate what Kobi and company actually achieve on this disc, following the progress of these musical elaborations should probably be absorbing enough.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Tenor saxophone solo 1 2. Tenor saxophone solo 2 3. Quartet* 4. Soprano saxophone solo 5. Tenor saxophone solo 3

Personnel: Christian Kobi (tenor and soprano saxophones); Wakana Ikeda (flute)*; Yoko Ikeda (violin)* and Taku Sugimoto (guitar)*