While listening to Ganryu Island, humor is the first thing to strike the ear. The recording is an unexpected joy for those who appreciate extended instrumental techniques. John Zorn blows forth a near-comprehensive sampling of his outrageous sound vocabulary -- bird calls, pattering, thwacking, and more -- in conjunction with the plucking and strumming of shamisen master Satoh Michihiro. Recorded in 1984, just after Michihiro left the traditional shamisen music community to focus more on using the instrument in improvisational settings, Ganryu Island was originally made available as a limited edition release on the Yukon label. This session of bemused wonderment was out of print until Zorn's label, Tzadik, rereleased it in 1998, with the addition of five outtakes. The great, no-holds-barred improvisation is by no means an inchoate whirl -- indeed, the shamisen's rhythmic presence often provides a steady, but flexible structure for the duo's truly imaginative interaction.
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AllMusic Review by Joslyn Layne