Related Reviews
American Record Guide
'This exquisite-sounding program offers compelling transcriptions of his Für Alina as well as the Cantus and the unforgettable Fratres.'
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Examiner.com
'If this is a representative sample (and there is no reason to believe it is not), then one can appreciate why Rossi was so admired by the Gonzaga Court.'
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Classical Ear
4 Stars
'The recording, as we have come to expect from Linn Records, is first class.'
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Audiophile.no
‘[If] Are you open to exploring new musical terrain, there's no reason to let this opportunity pass, with its innovative sound in many channels. Carpe Diem!’
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International Record Review
'...this thoroughly engaging, fastidiously produced recording casts the marimba in an entirely new light.'
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Gramophone
‘The most convincing moment is reserved for Reich. New York Counterpoint continues where ‘Kuniko Plays reich’ left off.’
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Baker & Taylor CD Hot List
'...masterful transcription...'
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Facts & Arts
'Renowned Japanese percussionist Kuniko Kato makes stunning music from the simplest of instruments, stretching their sonorities to heights never previously heard on record.'
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Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
'This is one stunning album. Kuniko is a phenomenon and she makes the music her own in sonically moving ways. Excellent!'
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La Scena Musicale
4 Stars
CD of the Week: '...outstanding. Why can't all records sound this good?'
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AllMusic.com
4½ Stars
'... the entire album is essential listening...'
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Infodad
‘Kuniko’s arrangements are attractive, and she certainly plays them well…’
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SA-CD.net
5 Stars
'The timbres and overtones are captured with extraordinary beauty.'
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SA-CD.net
4½ Stars
'...great minimalist music...Kuniko’s playing is – as ever – subtle, austere and hypnotic.'
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Irish Times
5 Stars
'Varied recording venues and microphone perspectives are used to create soundworlds of a delicacy and richness well beyond what the instrumentations suggest.'
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MusicWeb International
'Kato's superb control of the marimba and vibraphone deepens these pulsing, rocking and 'tintinnabular' effects.'
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The Independent
4 Stars
'...intricate rhythms are what catch the ear, but it's the overtones and silences that mesmerise'
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The Times
4 Stars
'Listening to these marimba rhythms is just right for a hot day, in fact it’s as refreshing as standing inside Niagara'
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The Observer
'imaginiative reworkings...in the hands of a master marimba player...an absorbing recital.'
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Kuniko - Cantus - All About Jazz


05 October 2013
All About Jazz
C. Michael Bailey

Percussionist Kuniko Kato is a total package who redefines our awareness of the vibraphone, marimba, indeed the entire percussive spectrum. If we think of the 'vibes' as Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Victor Feldman, Gary Burton and Joe Locke then we are missing a full half of the population of players. On her debut and sophomore releases for the British Linn Records, Kuniko turns her considerable attention to minimalism, first Reich and then he and his peers.

Steve Reich, along with La Monte Young, Terry Riley and Philip Glass, spearheaded the Minimal Music movement in the early 1960s. Minimal Music is characterized by consonant harmony, a steady beat, no or only slowly evolving transmutation, and often atomization of musical phrases or smaller units such as motifs. Reich certainly achieves these standards on his "Counterpoints," three (of four) of which are presented in percussion reductions on Kuniko Plays Reich.


Much discussion between artist and composer was had before final arrangements were made for recording. Kuniko proves a careful and studied musician who holds dear Reich's feelings and ideas about his music. Reich's Electric Counterpoint (1987) was originally composed for guitarist Pat Metheny. With Reich's direction, Kuniko arranges the three-part piece for steel pans, vibraphone and marimba. The three sections are devoted each to the three instruments, with bridging sections for the newly introduced instruments and pre-recorded tape. The music is hypnotic and mantra-like, studying rhythm, repetition and volume dynamics.

Six Marimbas Counterpoint is arranged for a tape of Kuniko playing five marimbas with a live solo section for the sixth. The organic sound of the marimbas makes for an earthy palette upon which Kuniko heaps polyrhythms, again hypnotically. Volume dynamics are modulated with dramatic effect. The final Vermont Counterpoint originally scored for flute, piccolo and alto flute, yielded creatively to Kuniko's arrangement plan. With a greater rhythmic complexity than the previous counterpoints, Vermont Counterpoint allow for whimsy and imagination. The vibraphone allows for a very digital quality of the music, standing as a contrast to the organic presentation of Six Marimbas Counterpoint. This is highly kinetic music in both direction and and time.

In stark contrast to the highly rhythmic Kuniko Plays Reich, Kuniko's second Linn release focusing on minimal music, Cantus revisits Reich and then branches out to other lions of the movement: Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and British composer Hywel Davies. Kuniko completes her survey of Steve Reich's four counterpoints with New York Counterpoint originally composed in 1985 for amplified clarinet and tape, or 11 clarinets and bass clarinet. Again, with the composer's direction, Kuniko arranges a tactile soundscape for the reeds-directed composition, recalling the whole of Kuniko Plays Reich.

Kuniko's treatment of the Pärt's Fur Alina, Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, the composer's famous Fratres and Speigel Im Speigel is slow, low and magestic, the percussionist drawing out the human vocal qualities of vibraphone and marimba, particularly on the Britten-dedicated piece. Davies' Purl Ground reveals a tactile bridge between Reich and Pärt, one of evolving kinesis over a low-hum or foundation. As striking as the music is, the spectre of Kuniko in flight is equally striking from her athletically efficient performance to her precise and exquisite presence: a total artistic package, shining with grace and brilliance.


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