There are legion of musicians who seek seemingly infinite ways to express themselves artistically. Within their unique forms of musical expression there are those who expound a wide variety of influences and those whose music encompasses a plethora of musical styles. With all of this potential diversity and variety, arriving at a determination regarding whether or not a particular musician’s work falls within one category or another is a sometime onerous task.
Determining whether a particular music is jazz also begs a question from a variety of opinions about the degree of "jazzness" of a particular performance or an artist’s work. Certainly some jazz purists and aficionados may raise the question of the efficacy of calling the avant garde work of Cecil Taylor, the smooth jazz of Kenny G, the sometimes new age sounds of Keith Jarrett, the third world influenced music of Don Cherry, or the vocal styling of Tony Bennett, jazz. Despite these issues, these artists seem to maintain their position within the jazz penumbra through some association they have or have had with jazz and jazz musicians in either their current or previous work.
The challenge to determine an answer to the question "is this jazz?" is certainly one a listener confronts when listening to the new CD release Distant Wind by Mei Han and Randy Raine-Reusch. Certainly there are moments on the recording that possess similar musical characteristics of jazz. There are passages that very well may be improvised. There certainly are times when the music gets into a compelling groove. Does this music possess the je ne sais quoi
, that certain something, that makes music jazz? That is questionable.
Distant Wind contains sounds intriguingly different from what the Western ear may be accustomed to. All seven selections on the CD are originals by Mei Han influenced by Chinese music, and feature her and Randy Raine-Reusch on a Chinese instrument called the zheng.
Distant Wind provides some interesting alternatives to the music lover. The bottom line: Is this jazz? Not on a bet. If you have rather specific requirements for what interests you musically, and that specific interest is limited to jazz, you will not be impressed by or perhaps even interested in this CD. If you love music in general, and are wide open to, and yearn for different sounds you very well may enjoy Distant Wind. While this recording would not provide sounds to accommodate the strictly jazz listener, it would be a fine addition to the CD collection of someone possessing a wide range of music tastes and the desire to have a sonic alternative to the usual fare in their collection.