Satoko Fujii & Myra Melford 

Under the Water

Berkeley's Maybeck Hall has hosted many of jazz's greatest pianists in live solo recitals. Under the Water, recorded there in September 2007, documents that rare creature, the piano duet.

From Japan, Satoko Fujii studied with the great Paul Bley, has recorded in an assortment of contexts, from duo to big band with American and Japanese musicians, and she visits the United States often. Myra Melford is from the Chicago area, has been a fixture on New York's jazz scene since the mid-1980s, and now teaches at the University of California at Berkeley. Both are among the most exciting cutting-edge jazz key-crackers walking the Earth.

Under the Water presents three duets and a solo piece from each. Stylistically, Fujii is more percussive and economical while Melford is impressionistic and draws on shades of blues and Indian music. (She spent about a year studying in India.) The album begins with "Yadokari," with both using extended techniques (such as playing or altering the innards of their pianos) for some crackling, folk-like explorations, then engaging in some wiry, darting interaction on the keys. "The Magnificent Fish" begins as a meditation, evolves into Chopin-like lyricism and then into feverish, spiky McCoy Tyner-esque runs.

Water is demanding music, but for those valuing subtle and spontaneous interaction, it holds many rewards. (Libra)

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