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New Music Alternatives 

A San Francisco festival that ventures a long, long way from the jazz mainstream

Wednesday, May 8 2002
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To counter the largely mainstream programming of the San Francisco Jazz Fest, local players from across the creative-music spectrum present the first annual San Francisco Alternative Music Festival, a series of seven ear-bending concerts that pair local, world-class sonic explorers with distinguished out-of-towners, including Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and New York saxophonist Joe McPhee.

Combining the fluent technique and harmonic theory of classical music, the serene intensity of traditional Japanese aesthetics, and the risk-taking spirit of jazz, the conservatory-trained Fujii has developed a singular voice on the acoustic keyboard. One of the top jazz composer/improvisers to emerge in the last decade, she has recorded more than a dozen acclaimed albums. Her broad-minded vision strikes a balance between conventional and experimental, ranging from lush melodic phrasing on the keys to haunting timbral excursions produced on the strings inside the piano.

New York improviser Joe McPhee applies what he calls the "language indicator" of "po" to his adventurous musicmaking efforts. "The word '"po,'" explains the 61-year-old saxophonist, "indicates that provocation is taking place and you should not necessarily take what you see or hear as fact." Musically, this translates into an improv approach not based on a particular song, but instigated by it. McPhee takes full advantage of the history of jazz invention, while at the same time defying many of its precepts; in essence, his approach sums up the credo of the S.F. Alt Music Festival.

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Sam Prestianni

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