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Not used much in Jazz because of most players’ tendency to emphasize its lilting and dulcet tones, harps entered improvised music because imaginative string-strumming are able to try out novel approaches while extending the instrument’s sound palate.
A studio disc, Ikui Doki features the harp and effects of Rafaelle Rinaudo with fellow French improvisers Hugues Mayot playing tenor saxophone and clarinets plus Sophie Bernado’s bassoon and voice.
While Rinaudo’s strings are often used to toughen the pace as if it was a double bass, a pastoral quiet still suffuses the disc and a sylvan euphony haunts many of Ikui Doki’s dozen tracks.
There’s even a tune entitled “Chant Pastoral” here, where Bernado’s bel-canto voice is harmonized with Mayot’s clarinet in such a way as to resemble a courtly 16th Century duet between recorder and voice. Overall Bernado’s French-accented English lyric reading, while harmonious and gentle, detracts from the powerful contrasting ostinatos she creates with bassoon. Additionally, while “Almanita” includes a blend of clarinet-bassoon-harp flutters that resemble 1950s’ Cool Jazz, “Debussy l”Africain” (sic) is a pretty ballad sung in English with impressionistic harmony, that encompasses an interlude of string plucks and clarinet arpeggios. Freer still is “Cats & Dogs” where the harpist picks out a Rock guitar-like ostinato in order to face the sizzling backbeat propelled by Mayot’s tenor saxophone.
Still the most inventive use of these so-called unusual instruments is on “My Taylor is a Reich”, perhaps referring to both Cecil (Taylor) and controversial Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm (Reich). Almost as iconoclastic as those two theorists’ work, the basic exposition features lowing bassoon slurps ascending to double-tongued, deep-toned snarls and split-tone variations, mixed with presto harp glissandi. Climaxing with Rinaudo’s positioned strumming, the theme leaks away via balanced flutter-tonguing from Mayot.
Unequivocally distinctive sounds, with classic and exploratory elements integrated within, the disc points out novel expressive avenues for non-standard instruments in a free music context.
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