Scott Jeffers 2002
Making East and West meet and have a musical affair, masters of folk and classical idioms see the twain summit in ecstasy.
Usually, the geographical scope of Scott Jeffers’ albums, even when it comes to imaginary events, is tied to his real-life trips, which is why Japanese fantasies were unreachable for the Arizonan artist, but for Masami Asahina they are a reality despite the Nippon-born pianist’s relocation to the States. Still, that might have been the reason the two musicians gravitated towards each other, and if recitals would be familiar to the latter, the former would lead his collective TRAVELER and try to step on a solo path just once, so “Mystic Journey” became a unique venture for both of them. A venture with a rather unexpected route.
The duo’s aural slide show starts with Masami’s skittering keys of “Bamboo Dance” that paint a tridimensional oriental silk screen which Scott’s fluttering bow embroiders with delicate details, both musicians mesmerizing the listener with their unique handling of melody and displaying stunning telepathy in their interplay. It may smell of a chamber approach, yet the hazy panorama the pair evoke is slowly shifting westwards, all the time revealing fresh pictures, so the raga sounds enter the frame even before tabla spices up the string figures in “Jai Of India” and lay sitar-esque lines over the tune.
But while such a move feels logical – as are, respectively, Asahina’s “Sakura Sakura” and “Arabian Crossing” by Jeffers, two vibrantly elegiac, if very different, snapshots of static motion – the klezmer catchiness behind “Land Of The Fiddler” comes across as genuinely moving, especially when Chagall-like images of vanished shtetls inhabit the air between the wailing violin and the piano adding flourishes to the sonic scenery. And when “The Wrath Of Taranis” offers vigorously wondrous, albeit elegant, passages, epic symphonic spirits are ushered in to be taken for a dance by “Melpomene” whose filigree is filled with sirtaki motifs, so the true exotica one could expect from this album will be revealed only in “Shinrin No Taki” – another looming-large and loose, yet immensely dynamic, weave of the classical instruments’ pairing – and “Sato”: the record’s melancholically alluring finale.
Those of rock disposition risk to find the results too placid; those possessed of wider perspective should eagerly embrace this serenity.