«Streams» captures the very first, unfiltered musical encounter of the young, New York-based (with Japanese roots) reeds player Yuma Uesaka with master pianist Marilyn Crispell, recorded at Nevessa studios, near Crispell’s home in Woodstock, New York in November 2018. Uesaka is known from the trio Ocelot that released its self-titled debut album this year (577, 2021. Crispell, obviously, has a far richer discography and collaborated before with iconic reed players from Anthony Braxton and Joseph Jarman to Tim Berne and Joe Lovano.
Uesaka initiated the meeting after seeing Crispell playing duos with pianist Angelica Sanchez and drummer Tyshawn Sorey and after he and Crispell began their talk by discussing the relationship between Buddhist philosophy and playing free improvised music. «Streams» was conceived by Uesaka in the spirit of Crispell’s previous duo ventures with Braxton («Duets, Vancouver 1989 (Four Compositions by Anthony Braxton»), Music & Arts, 1990) and Jarman («Connecting Spirits», Music & Arts, 1996). Like these seminal albums, «Streams» is intimate and meditative, intellectual but emotive, and clearly a highly poetic and spiritual musical meeting of kindred spirits. The poetic spirit of the album is intensified with the artwork of Alexandra Powell’s fluid acrylic pour painting and by the poems by Rushi Vyas, inspired by the music.
The title of the album reflects the essence of this meeting. An organic and subtle flow of sounds, silences, ideas and gestures. It is also clear that Uesaka has learned carefully Crispell’s work and it has become part of his musical DNA. Both he and she understand that the art of the moment is about the music and the opening, sparse and quiet «Meditations» captures beautifully their profound interplay. Uesaka’s «Iterations I» references Braxton-inspired atonal melodic synchrony and suggests a playful, intellectual game with Crispell that ends in an almost silent, meditative coda. The free-improvised title piece, «Capillarity» and «Torrent» stress both Uesaka and Crispell’s natural sense of melody and their deep, highly attentive conversational interplay, moving freely between spontaneous counterpoint, intense, collective textures and constant exchange of musical ideas. The latter piece is the most intense and dense one, with Crispell percussive playing evoking Cecil Taylor’s description of the piano as 88 drums.
The last piece «Ma / Space», refers to the Japanese concept of space, 間, a space in time, and distills the essence of this inspired meeting. Uesaka conceived this piece in relation to his Japanese heritage and the ancient court music of Gagaku, and overdubbed it with Chatori Shimizu playing the Japanese mouth organ, the ethereal shō, but Crispell has her own, insightful concept of space and time that spirals this moving piece into untimely sonic dimensions.
Yuma Uesaka (ts, B-flat cl, contra-alto cl), Marilyn Crispell (p), Chatori Shimizu (shō)