Jazz Fest: Miya Masaoka

by Alexander Varty
June 30th, 2005

Unconventional instrumental techniques noted at the Saturday performance by koto player Miya Masaoka, trombonist George Lewis, cellist Peggy Lee, and flautist Nicole Williams: suction-cup trombone, in which Lewis plunged the mouthpiece of his horn against his face to produce various intestinal gurglings; Mitchell’s application of a house- painter’s brush to the strings and soundboard of an African harp; the belly of an amplified koto being stroked with a rubber ball on a stick, to unearthly effect; tapping the bell of the trombone with a mute to simulate the sound of a snare drum; playing slide koto with a tuning wrench; bowing the cello behind the bridge to produce eerie, high-pitched quavers. Despite the music’s unremitting abstraction, this Western Front show was extraordinarily intimate and affecting, thanks to the mutual respect evinced by the players.