Min Xiao-Fen Asian Trio | Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park | International | Chicago Reader

Min Xiao-Fen Asian Trio Recommended Free Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Sun., July 19, 6:30 p.m. 2009

The Asian Trio doesn’t exactly stick to Asian music—the name has more to do with where the musicians are from than what they play. Korean cellist Okkyung Lee and Japanese percussionist Satoshi Takeishi are both important figures on New York’s jazz and improvised-music scenes, and at least in this group bandleader Min Xiao-Fen favors an elastic, expansive strain of improv that’s not hitched to any particular idiom—though she plays a traditional lutelike instrument called the pipa, she only occasionally betrays her Chinese roots. Since moving from China to New York in 1992, Min has moved fluidly between radically different communities—Chinese classical music, jazz, free improv—and worked with everyone from Tan Dun to Randy Weston to Derek Bailey. This trio just might show off that malleability best. A live set recorded in Philadelphia in 2007 (slated for release on a new label run by Ars Nova, Philly’s most important jazz and improvised-music presenter) includes chaotic textural passages, where Min injects the tumble of notes with vocal shouts and whinnies; gently lyrical spells, where Lee’s lovely bowing forms a plush cushion for Min’s spindly pipa; and electronically refracted episodes, where Takeishi switches from drums to live processing that warps and colors his bandmates’ output. This concert—the Asian Trio’s local debut—is part of Chinese Cultural Week in Chicago, but the music should deviate deliriously from any Chinese tradition. —Peter Margasak

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