Kikanju Baku and James Fei – No One Teaches The Snake To Strike (2017)

Taiwanese-American James Fei is a reedist with a penchant for live electronics and experimental music from contemporary classical music to out-jazz. The latter genre has led him to collaborations with giants of the idiom like Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell. Mitchell’s got a double-disc album coming forth from ECM Records on which Fei appears. Also on that album (Bells For The South Side) is Mitchell’s favored drummer of late, Kikanju Baku.

The Bells double-disc extravaganza isn’t slated for release until the end of June, 2017 but a meeting of Fei and Baku now out should keep Mitchell fans satiated until then. No One Teaches The Snake To Strike (Ethnicity Against the Error) is extreme jazz improv, all tracks made up on the spot, no safety net, no overdubs, just a pure outpouring of drums/reeds co-combustion.

From an earlier review of Baku on this space, we marveled at how “he paradoxically plays with such density and also catlike agility” like no other. In this one-on-one setting with Fei, his special qualities become ever more apparent. He reads whatever Fei is articulating and is able to respond in kind, as Fei does the same back to Baku.

“Triple Snake Bite” is loaded with machine gun rounds from both, while Fei meditates on Baku’s asymmetrical grooves on “Esemsplasticon Esotericus Anastrophore.” Fee’s tenor sax gets wonderfully contorted the way Ivo Perelman does it on “Palang,” and he tests the upper register of his soprano sax for the seventeen minute odyssey “Capitalisms Last Venomous Gasps as it Self Cannibalizes.” No matter Fei’s mood, Baku finds the right complement for it.

Electronics from Fei come into play on “Selachian Tepidarium,” basically an inventive, frisky Baku drum solo accompanied by cricket-like chirps. The bent circuitry gets more random on “Energumen,” blending in with the drums almost unnoticed as extra percussion. Baku continues to lead the charge for “Economy Is Enemy” with Fei back on tenor filling in the gaps and matching the intensity.

The loose and animated No One Teaches The Snake To Strike holds nothing back, it’s noisy music that’s impulsive but never pointless. Kikanju Baku and James Fei pool together their chops to conjure up something greater than the sum of its parts.

MP3 excerpt

*** Learn more about No One Teaches The Snake To Strike here ***


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron