Francis Wong

Duets 1

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The pairing of tenor saxophonist Francis Wong and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee at The San Francisco Mime Troupe in 1996 was no ordinary duet concert. As a label, Asian Improv has concerned itself with presenting high-quality, innovative Asian, East Indian, and Asian American takes on the jazz and new music art forms and has released records of astonishing quality and taste. This one is no exception. Comprised of two long selections (divvied into track marks for listener convenience) -- one for each set by the duo -- this date is a study in how these two instruments can come together in the song of improvisation. There may be bleating, honking, and squealing in places, but these sounds are byproducts of two players looking deeply into modal blues for a way into each other's musical worlds. Wong's tenor plays from the pain side of the blues -- the side of grief and loss and history -- in his approach to integrating Asian folk traditions into the jazz environment. Kavee is the perfect accompanist because he's an on-the-spot listener; he doesn't react, he catches the song's mode and moves into it with a groove already in mind that supplies Wong with a solid-sounding board for tracking through his ideas, and in turn, those ideas are textured by Kavee's organic approach to improvising. For jazz or improv fans looking for a point of reference, think of the India Navigation label as an inspiration for what's taking place here, and settle back to be amazed at some of the most sonically spiritual playing and "singing" since Coltrane and Sanders.

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