Valentina Ponomareva

Live in Japan

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Despite his unquestionable contribution to the recording of free improvisation, new music, and jazz in all its forms, there are times when Leo Feigin, founder and director of Leo Records, drives those who purchase the recordings on his label crazy. This album is a case in point. Valentina Ponomareva is a legend in Eastern Europe for her four-octave range, her ability to improvise modally and tonally with any instrument on the planet, and her near inexhaustible energy. Looking at the lineup on this disc, one would pretty much expect a free improv extravaganza. The problem is, whether these three dates in Japan produced that are in question due to the unbelievably dodgy sound on this recording. It sounds like all the proceedings were recorded with one microphone, so when you hear a saxophone, Ponomareva's voice is all but inaudible. And when Bill Laswell -- stage-hogging presence that he is -- is playing, you can't hear anything else, though it does prove how overrated he is as a bassist. It's even more frustrating when keyboard geniuses like the late Sergey Kuryokhin can't be heard anywhere. It's maddening, really. The balances are so far off, and the recordings themselves are so poor that this is at best a bootleg, not even an accurate document of how the music went down on those evenings. But the greatest crime of all is that you are no closer to hearing how great Ponomareva really is because for most of the recording she is virtually invisible. This disc is a ripoff.

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