Ron Korb with Hiroki Sakaguchi,
Japanese Mysteries
(self-produced, 1993; 2000)

Japanese Mysteries is Ron Korb's second recording. Originally from Canada, Ron spent more than a year in the land of his grandparents as he felt compelled to learn more about the culture of his ancestors. This CD is largely a result of the time he spent in that land.

I should mention that Ron is a graduate from the University of Toronto, where he studied flute performance. He has spent years traveling and studying flutes from all over the world. He admits in the CD liner notes that the transition to the Japanese style of playing the shinobue and ryuteki bamboo flutes was difficult. "The technique, aesthetic and pedagogy are in stark contrast to western flute playing."

While Ron plays the bamboo flute, shinobue, misatobue, ryuteki, flute and keyboards on Japanese Mysteries, he is joined by several other musicians. Most notable is Hiroki Sakaguchi, a composer who created his first composition at the young age of 11! He joins Ron on the keyboard. Whereas six of the 13 tracks are attributed to Ron and two are traditional pieces, Sakaguchi composed the remaining five.

Rounding out the musicians is Tani Senzan (shakuhachi), Tanaka Yoko (koto, shamisen), Ryuhei Kobayashi (classical guitar), Akira Mori (steel string guitar), Hiroshi Ogawa (bass) and Takeshi Ishikawa (taiko, hira daiko and percussion).

If I had to select a favorite tune, it might be "Kappa (River Child)." A kappa is a mythical Japanese creature that has green scales, a turtle-like beak and shell, and small tufts of black hair on its head. This piece has a nice, engaging melody that easily brings to mind the flowing waters of rivers and streams where kappa live. There is a hint of mischief in the flute playing which is, perhaps, explained by the liner notes. Kappa were known to cause harm to the humans who crossed their paths.

Another aptly titled piece is "Ryoanji (The Zen Garden)." This tranquil selection is a duet between Korb and Senzan. While the tune is the longest on the CD and the melody is rather simple, "Ryoanji" has quite a calming effect. Whether you concentrate on the individual instruments or allow the sounds to become background noise, your mood will be more sedate by the end. I wonder if that was Ron's intention or if this is simply my individual experience. Regardless, I quite enjoy this track.

Ron Korb is, without a doubt, a master flute player. His many CDs showcase playing styles from around the world. If you are unfamiliar with his work, it would be hard to recommend a single CD to start with. I doubt you could go wrong choosing any one of them. If you are partial to Japanese melodies, however, then I can highly recommend that you start out with Japanese Mysteries. I am fairly confident you will soon add the rest of Ron's recordings to your collection once you have experienced his talent on the flute.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 3 August 2002

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