Picture Dreams

by: Riley Lee/Satsuki Odamura

Being 100 percent Japanese isn't mandatory if you're a shakuhachi player. The instrument was actually invented in China, and occasionally, some Americans have played it on the side -- jazzman Bobby King, for example, is a hard bop/post-bop saxophonist who has played the shakuhachi as a secondary instrument. Nonetheless, Japan has dominated shakuhachi playing for centuries, and the instrument will always be closely identified with traditional Japanese music -- which is what the Texas-born Riley Lee provides on Picture Dreams. Not many people who were born in Texas can honestly say that they play the shakuhachi as their main instrument, but Lee can -- and he plays it in a traditionally Japanese way throughout this fine CD. Some of Lee's other releases have demonstrated that he isn't a purist when it comes to Japanese music; a purist wouldn't combine the shakuhachi with Indian tabla drums or the Aboriginal didgeridoo (two non-Japanese instruments that have been heard on some of Lee's previous albums -- although he didn't play either of them himself). Picture Dreams, however, is traditionally Japanese (as opposed to multicultural) in its approach. This excellent disc finds Lee forming a duo with Satsuki Odamura, a female koto player who grew up in Japan but now lives in Australia (which is also Lee's adopted home). Although Lee has, at times, brought his shakuhachi to multicultural settings, Picture Dreams shouldn't scare away any Japanese purists; an album of instrumental shakuhachi/koto duets is exactly the sort of thing that one expects from traditional Japanese music. Lee and Odamura enjoy a strong rapport on all of the material, which is as tranquil as it is haunting. Picture Dreams gives world music enthusiasts yet another reason to applaud Lee's mastery of the shakuhachi. ~ Alex Henderson

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