Steve Beresford and Satoko Fukuda send sparks Ray’s Jazz

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Against the balance of power between improvisers there are often casualties. But Steve Beresford’s unassuming, yet warm presence, his deftness both in touch and in timing, has found a complimentary dynamic force in violinist Satoko Fukuda. Her array of dazzling techniques, particularly a neat spicatto, and hunger for ideas brought about exciting exchanges between the two artists, who were exploring their respective capabilities in a new partnership that sacrificed polish in favour of authentic artistic exploration. The result was refreshing and at times great fun.

Beresford, a devastatingly well-versed improviser, adopted a range of striking personas at the piano. At one extreme he began to resemble a shopkeeper: quick, automatic hands placed, in turn, a glass, a comb, some vibrating devices and other mechanised objects onto the piano strings to alter the sound, as if he were loading cans onto a shelf. Then suddenly he would become gorilla-like, scratching away at the strings, oblivious to the winces of discomfort the sounds caused in his audience. Moments later he was thundering away at the keys again, while Fukuda hacked at her four strings simultaneously with the heavier of her two bows. There is something to be said for musicians who can awaken such helpless reactions in a sophisticated Foyles crowd.

There was great presentation on both sides. Fukuda’s poker-face maintained a strong sense of poise despite enormous distances between the two players, culminating initially in the gallows-humoured announcement: ‘end of part one’. What followed were two shorter parts which were enjoyable but unfortunately didn’t quite develop - such a variety of sounds, pitches and timbres had already been explored. Nevertheless, this was a delightful union of two undeniably free and distinct musical minds, neither of whom shied away from surprises.

      – Will Kemp