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Fred and the Monkey Orchestra Ho: Monkey: Part One

Sit up and take note of Fred Ho’s performance vistas! His extraordinary orchestrational and theatrical senses are rooted in Chinese traditional folk forms and jazz scores that seem inspired by Evans and Mingus. Leading with his own baritone sax and flute, Ho’s 11-piece band is a mix of saxes, trombone, bass and drums with Chinese stringed and reed instruments. His sensibility is not content with the orthodoxies of “world music.” One senses it’s been brewing for decades (Joachim Berendt would have enjoyed this). The timbral combination is perfect with the high-pitched traditional sounds and the pungent or wavy lines of the “jazz” horns.

The CD has music for Acts I and III of Hop’s Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey. Monkey is a 16th-century trickster from a novel, and Ho’s themes promagnitize his liminal stature and paradoxical essence. Through Ho, add yet another narrative to the Vizenorian “trickster discourse.” The longest section of Act I’s “Uproar in Heaven,” “Heaven Wrecks Havoc in Heaven,” is a multifaceted centerpiece of activity, and the three pieces in “Monkey Meets the Spider Spirit Vampires” are particularly insinuating and elastic. Parts of the narrative boundaries and the CD may be one of the most musically original recordings in 1996.

Originally Published