From the All Music Guide:
Being 100% Japanese isn’t mandatory if you’re a shakuhachi player.
The instrument was actually invented in China, and occasionally, some
Americans have played it on the side–jazzman Bobby King, for example, is
a hard bop/post-bop saxophonist who has played the shakuhachi as a
Nonetheless, Japan has dominated shakuhachi playing for centuries,
and the instrument will always be closely identified with traditional
Japanese music–which is what the Texas-born Riley Lee provides on
Picture Dreams. Not many people who were born in Texas can honestly say
that they play the shakuhachi as their main instrument, but Lee can–and
he plays it in a traditionally Japanese way throughout this fine CD.
Some of Lee’s other releases have demonstrated that he isn’t a purist
when it comes to Japanese music; a purist wouldn’t combine the
shakuhachi with Indian tabla drums or the Aboriginal didjeridoo (two
non-Japanese instruments that have been heard on some of Riley’s
previous albums–although he didn’t play either of them himself).
Picture Dreams, however, is traditionally Japanese (as opposed to
multicultural) in its approach. This excellent disc finds Lee forming a
duo with Satsuki Odamura, a female koto player who grew up in Japan but
now lives in Australia (which is also Lee’s adopted home). Although Lee
has, at times, brought his shakuhachi to multicultural settings, Picture
Dreams shouldn’t scare away any Japanese purists; an album of
instrumental shakuhachi/koto duets is exactly the sort of thing that one
expects from traditional Japanese music.
Lee and Odamura enjoy a strong rapport on all of the material, which
is as tranquil as it is haunting. Picture Dreams gives world music
enthusiasts yet another reason to applaud Lee’s mastery of the
– Alex Henderson
From Amazon.com :
Pristine serenity, seemingly untouched by the modern world!, October 1,
2006 There are only two instruments played on this album: the
shakuhachi, an end-blown, bamboo flute, and the koto, a 13-stringed
Japanese zither, a combination popular in Japan since the mid-17th
century. And it’s easy to understand why; the two were made for each
other. Whether by variations in breath or touch, both instruments are
graced by a nuanced flexibility of intonation–that wavery sound within
individual notes that, to Western ears, may seem slightly out of tune,
but which actually imbues each tone with a subtle character all its own.
Both instruments are also capable of expressing a wide range of
moods, from bright and piercing to lyrical and liquid. Shakuhachi master
Riley Lee and koto virtuoso Satsuki Odamura are also perfectly matched,
alternately gliding and tumbling their way through this collection of
duets, playing off each other’s embellishments and silences like
seasoned jazz improvisers. The result is at once relaxing and
stimulating, and at all times utterly transporting!
– Brianna Neal