Contemporary music from everywhere

Masaki Hayashi & Seigen Tokuzawa – Drift

When we think about diversity only in terms of identity, we short-change its potential. No question, there is tremendous value to be found in bringing together people of various cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations and so forth. But there is so much more to genuine diversity than identity politics.

Investment management companies provide a useful illustration. In recent years, an industry not generally known for inclusiveness has made real progress in acknowledging the power of building teams around a variety of perspectives.

It was a natural evolution from the core asset management concept of a balanced portfolio. By investing in multiple asset classes (stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.) in different industries in different parts of the world, it’s less likely that your entire portfolio will be negatively impacted by a particular series of events. Industry leaders recognized that building teams of investment managers who went about their work in different ways, and who thought about the world from a unique perspective, would produce superior results in a similar way. Not surprisingly, diversity is working.

Musicians have long understood this.

Pianist Masaki Hayashi and cellist Seigen Tokuzawa first crossed paths in 2011, as members of Naruyoshi Kikuchi y Pepe Torment Azucarar. Hayashi came from the jazz world. Tokuzawa’s work is rooted in the classical tradition. What they shared though, besides their common Japanese heritage and an employer, was a firm belief in the power of diversity in musical collaboration.

Their debut as a duo is a lovely example of how new classical music can embrace multiple influences and still deliver a thoughtful, very listenable experience. Drift includes their interpretations of Gavin Bryars’ “The South Downs” (actually composed for cello and piano), Squarepusher’s “Iambic 9 Poetry” and The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs.”

It is fun to see those recognizable titles, but the album’s success is best appreciated as a whole. The performances are deeply expressive and full of warmth. Somewhat minimalist, by virtue of the album’s limited instrumentation, there is a kind of pristine clarity on display in all of the 11 recordings. Their ability to incorporate multiple styles only adds to the end result.

Every note feels purposeful and additive. The interplay between Hayashi and Tokuzawa is personal – the two sound entirely in sync – but entirely accessible. Not in the way pop instrumental music is, they’re aiming higher than that. Its accessibility is a result of expert musicianship and attention to compositional detail. You’ll be impressed at first, and then increasingly enthusiastic with subsequent listens.

Kevin Press

The Moderns, vols. 1 and 2, by Kevin Press are available exclusively from Amazon.

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