Featuring two live recordings from performances at Rova Saxophone Quartet's 25th Anniversary Festival in San Francisco in 2002 and the Music Unlimited Festival in Wels Austria in 2005, this exhilarating record demonstrates the highest levels of musical interaction.
Kihlstedt is known mainly for her work in the avant-garde group Tin Hat and the art-rock group Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Fujii is an icon in the avant-garde world, working in many configurations and instrumentations from duo to big band.The two players met for the first time at the San Francisco festival and the degree of communication verges on the unbelievable. Both players described the experience in almost mystical terms, especially Kihlstedt:
"The very first time we played together we found an inexplicably mutual language that has, since then, been an amazing fertile playground for us. We always seem to arrive at places that neither of us could possibly find on our own. It's one of those rare and exciting moments in which I don't feel like we're improvising so much as we're uncovering whole fields of lost artifacts."
The results of these feelings are directly audible, as the two women play in a white heat of passion. Minamo is much hotter than the very fine record Heart Mountain by violinist Tanya Kalmanovich and pianist Myra Melford, making the latter seem sedate by comparison. This, of course, does not mean better, but just that this live meeting crackles with enormous energy and faster musical reflexes.
Fujii and Kihlstedt listen very closely to each other and respond to each other's gestures, shifting from lead to accompaniment effortlessly. Development happens organically and with such an extremely natural feeling that at times the music sounds composed. Part of the joy of listening to Minamo are the many different sounds and textures created both individually and together. While the music can get quite dense at times, there are many other instances of beauty. Excitement is never far away as the smallest seed is seized upon and then expanded-this is what makes the record wonderful. The last track, "Remainder of one, Reminder of two" is over twenty-six minutes without one second of flab or diminished concentration, and thus the music is easy to follow. Listening thus becomes for the listener the same journey that Kihlstedt and Fujii took on stage. Minamo is a triumph.