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Joelle Leandre/Masahiko Satoh/Yuji Takahashi: Signature

French bassist Joelle Leandre has a unique combination of credentials in both contemporary classical music-she has played with Boulez’s Ensemble Intercontemporain and has had works composed for her by Cage, Scelsi and others-and improvisation, an endeavor she has pursued with the likes of Derek Bailey and Steve Lacy. Signature (Red Toucan) melds these two aspects of her work in respective CD-length duet concert recordings-Masahiko Satoh, a well-established jazz pianist, and Yuji Takahashi, a one-time assistant to composer Toru Takemitsu, whose own work spans improvisation and traditional Japanese music. Expectedly, the set with Satoh has the brighter rhythmic charge of the two, and the set with Takahashi is the more austere. However, Takahashi is refreshingly free of the dead-end gambit that commonly hamstrings players with his background, loitering on the verge of saying something profound without saying much of anything at all. There is old, archaic wisdom embedded in Takahashi’s playing that contrasts vividly against the worldliness of Satoh’s. Leandre’s tapping of these currents in Japanese music is to be commended as much as her often breathtaking playing.

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