Ron Korb,
Between the Shadows:
Live in Quebec

(Humble Dragon, 2003)

(re-released as Ron Korb Live, 2004)

Ron Korb is a Japanese-Canadian flutist and composer who is joined on this DVD by musicians who are not afraid of innovation and blending instruments and styles. The result is a bold masterpiece of sight and sound.

Korb delves into magical worlds with the bamboo flute, bass flute and Celtic whistles while the music expands with rich textures from Ray Hickey Jr., who plays guitar, koto and pipa. This is matched no less by Bill Evans on piano and accordion, Steve Bright on bass, stick and shamisen, and drummer Larry Crowe.

What might seem an extraordinary fit into the repertoire of extreme and intense world sounds is the French-Canadian fiddle of Alain Francois and foot-stomping of Dominic Grenier in "The Harvest Jig." But Korb's composition honours them both and the live audience sitting in the theatre on Mount Arthabaska, Quebec, on a frozen winter night is warm, enthusiastic and accepting of the piece. It is a strong modern piece with a traditional flair.

The DVD begins with an evening shot of the frozen mountain side and the camera brings us indoors where the stage is back-lit by fuzzy warm red lighting. In the stage light the performers seem to shine like unset jewels in folds of black velvet, their ruby, emerald and amethyst tops as bright as Japanese lanterns.

Amazing camera work puts one right on the stage, right beside or in touching distance of the musicians. And even though there is a classical nature to the show, the musicians and audience evoke warm responses from each other that I enjoyed watching.

Korb's compositions are absorbing and intense. The performances on this DVD draw his listeners into following his every move and note. At times I was unsure of how much it is his music and how much his own charisma or how much it is the visual presentation that makes each chapter so breathtaking.

As a visual delight this is an unusual and especial music product. Sound-wise, the production is extremely clear and Korb claims to be "the first Canadian independent artist to commercially release a DVD in stereo and 5.1 Dolby surround." It works.

The 50-plus minutes of music goes by much too quickly, and I had a little trouble finding my way around the DVD, but it has some admirable special features like a choice of English or French menus and chapter search.

Classical, folk, modern, traditional, Celtic and world influences, this DVD has it all in an exciting package. If flute interests you and you like musical adventures, this is quality in the round.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 9 October 2004

[ visit the artist's website ]