Exposé Online banner

Ryoko Ono / Rogier Smal — Wood Moon
(Jvtlandt JVT0016, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2018-02-27

Wood Moon Cover art

My previous encounters with the playing of saxophonist Ryoko Ono involved her work with Acid Mothers Temple — she appears on Have You Seen the Other Side of the Sky? and Crystal Rainbow Pyramid under the Stars as well as some live recordings — but it is her work in Sax Ruins that seems most relevant here. Sax Ruins is her duo group with wildman drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, and while that collaboration involves composed music, Wood Moon is entirely improvised and involves Dutch drummer Rogier Smal. In spite of the limited instrumentation, there’s a great variety of sounds and moods to be heard, from contemplative sparseness to frenetic hyperactivity, with both musicians stretching the boundaries of what their instruments can do. The nine tracks ebb and flow like conversations, though of course most of the time both participants are talking instead of taking turns. Ono exhibits mastery of the saxophone, sometimes fluid and lyrical (though never smarmy), sometimes frantic and growly. Her use of squawks and squeals is not abrasive, but supremely expressive, and even melodic. Special mention should be made of “Wood Moon 9,” where it sounds like she is blowing through her mouthpiece into a bowl of water, with gurgling noises and screeches. In addition to her sax, Ono also uses her voice, providing semi-spoken semi-ranting on “Wood Moon 4” punctuated by phrases from her saxophone. For his part, Smal uses his kit in a wide variety of ways, none of which involve keeping tempo with repeating patterns. At times the tempo is free, and he provides waves of sounds from cymbals, drums, rims, and hand percussion; at other times a pulse develops, and the hits keep time steadily, though without developing conventional accents. The prospect of an improvising duo such as this was at first daunting, but from the first listen I found it consistently engaging and enjoyable in ways that much improvisation is not. Ryoko Ono is an extraordinary saxophonist who bridges precision and freedom with impeccable taste, and Rogier Smal is a sensitive and imaginative drummer. Together they have created one of the most appealing recordings of free improvisation I’ve heard in quite some time.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Ryoko Ono

More info
http://www.jvtlandt.com/releases/ono-smal/wood-moon

Latest news

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more

2018-11-02
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more

2018-10-17
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more

2018-09-29
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more

2018-09-25
Help the Psychic Equalizer Avoid Extinction – Last year we reviewed the debut album by Psychic Equalizer, a musical project of Hugo Selles. He's now working on the ambitious follow-up to that release, and is seeking funding from listeners around the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Nektar - Unidentified Flying Abstract – Nektar occupies a somewhat awkward place in the history of progressive rock. They don't fit in with the symphonic style of Yes or Genesis, and they're not as elaborate as King Crimson or...  (2006) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues