The koto is a traditional Japanese zither, a multi-stringed instrument that lays flat on a stand and is played by picking, strumming or bowing the strings. Masaoka produces a myriad of sounds ranging from high-end piano notes, to percussive bass sounds and everything in between. A very heads-up musician she is completely aware of the effects that she creates in the body of the work, adding wonderful dynamics by slapping and scraping the instrument as well as employing electronic effects that complement where the other musicians are heading.
Cellist Peggy Lee was incredible, at times imitating the koto, bowing the strings in a percussive manner, slapping the strings with the bow or just wildly and innovatively playing classic cello. Lee produces warm, passionate sounds that create a wonderful glowing backdrop over which saxophonist Ochs and kotoist Masaoka intermix their varied melodies and patterns.
The trio performed four numbers; each number had some type of unusual, interesting component. The second number featured Ochs on sopranino saxophone; he played like a tornado ripping through town. Rapid arpeggios, glissandos, trills and all manner of sophisticated multi-fingering techniques that were near to overwhelming. I half-expected either the instrument or the musician to give out; both however, proved to be up to the task and stormed onward.
The trio of Masaoka, Lee and Ochs made me very appreciative of the opportunity to attend the Guelph Jazz Festival; I had originally only intended to take in one Mainstage performance. This afternoons performance was inspirational, improvisation at a very high level and musical creations that were categorically delightful.