Francis Wong

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Devotee Review

by Thom Jurek

Tenor saxophonist Francis Wong and vocalist Genny Lim lead an ensemble that includes pianist and shakuhachi and shiamsen player Glenn Horiuchi and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee on a journey through the mystical lands of love and loss in the east. Here, Chinese music meets the diaspora of all Asians to Africa and to the West. There is a long suite, "La Chine Africane," in five parts that encompasses the first half-hour of the disc. It is a piece that integrates the Chinese classical tradition and oral histories along with free improvisation. It's drawn out and lengthy, but fascinating in how it uses overtones and semi-quavers to play the characters and various settings in the work. The rest are various compositions integrating the various Asian and American traditions in improvisation and tonal exploration. The entire proceeding is somber, if chaotic, and the reason is Lim's singing, which draws out each syllable, no matter which language she sings in, and adds to her vocalizing the entire weight of history. By the time of "Diaspora Tale" at the end of the record, the listener is worn out and exhausted, full of weight and a head full of images that need time to be assimilated. This is a laborious, but rewarding listening experience.

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