Sizhukong Yuwen Peng : 絲竹空 Sizhukong (TW,2007)****’
"I wanted to make traditional Chinese music dance with modern steps. Accompanied by jazz grooves, here she starts to swing” says Yuwen Peng, composer & Pianist of the band Sizhukong, who are introduced on this CD.
The first track starts with moody improvised piano with a spatial development enriched with pipa, electric picking bass accents, and drum accents, which are mostly cymbal and hand percussion. From this track on a kind of new fusion is developed, played like jazz fusion with a starting point mix with certain Chinese characteristics and instruments (zither, bowed and picked instruments), while bass and drum delicately play in jazz mode, the piano plays melody, rhythm and also weaves into the themes or brings an enriched dialogue. On the first track this melodic open evolution prepares itself for a pipa improvisation lead to break through on the second track, while the piano still shows the direction. Here the percussion still is minimal, with cymbal accents. On the second track a little wilder tambourine percussion is just, comparable to a Persian music instrument with the same sound, with additional drums. This track is already much groovier. The next track leaves the introduction to the delicateChinese lute with banjo-like accents. Percussion starts again with different instruments. Further on it has more jazz drums. A bowed Chinese instrument is added. The jazz groove is also even stronger on this track, with a powerful melodic top layer, improvisations on Chinese violin, and with a strong rhythmic base. The 5th track starts with a Chinese zither introduction for a slow bass solo, in a rather Indian style mixed with jazz, played like a slow introduction for the next track, which shows again the big tambourine finger percussion, brushed percussion, thumb plucked sounds, bass and flute/violin rather rhythmically evolving improvisations. The perfect thin line middle between Chinese moods and improvisation, fusion and jazz are continued in more parts, with returning leads of bowed/picking instruments Chinese instruments (erhu-violin, liuqin) or occasional adaptive harp-like instruments or flutes (xiao, guzheng).
The music is rooted in inspiration to natural or historical places, an occasional folk song or, for the last track, an original Chinese classical style (Nanguan-based). The compositions hang well together and show enough of the new tradition and of a jazz swing and of a well-composed / naturally played nature that has something attractive for all listeners.
I found out about Taiwan Jazz and about this band after having had the opportunity to check the compilation Taiwan Jazz.”From this compilation, Sizhukong and Nomad Ensemble stood out very well so I decided to check both bands out.
In the Taiwanese jazz scene, the liner notes of that compilation says, musicians feel free to borrow elements from any genre, period or region they wish.
Yuwen Peng graduated at Berkely College of Music in Boston with a major in composition, jazz theory and jazz piano. She wanted to integrate her achievements and ideas back in Taiwan, which she started to do with Sizhukong, since 2005. They describe the first album in comparison with the second one as being less explosive and more lyrical and refined.
The album is printed like a luxury album with lots of attention to detail I only saw in some albums from certain Chinese regions and independent countries, using different papers for the booklet, the digipack and other separate parts, making it also a physical object that is a pleasure to touch the differences in textures as well.