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Album Review

Up to the year 2000, Distance is Joe Fonda's most experimental and simply unusual recording. It is also one of his most powerful projects. The jazz bassist performs duets with Xu Fengxia, who plays the guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument closely related to the Japanese koto. Two traditions meet harmoniously in Distance, each musician bringing an extended vocabulary to the other's improvising style, enhanced by the use of the voice. Fonda always "sang" his lines in the background (he can be heard through his instrument's pickup on most of his recordings) but here he uses his voice as a complementary form of expression, producing entrancing Tibetan-like drones on "A Journey Into the Desert," the album's best moment. Fengxia's vocal approach is somewhere between Asian tradition and the contemporary experiments of Sainkho Namtchylak. If a jazz frame can be felt in the groove of the bass on "Happy Chinaman," everything else on Distance sounds out of time and space, providing a unique experience for the adventurous listener. Fans of the Fonda-Stevens Group will be puzzled, but as long as they're a bit open-minded, there is enough stellar bass playing here to captivate them also. Strongly recommended. ~ François Couture, Rovi


Born: 16 December 1954 in Amsterdam, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Joe Fonda is perhaps best known as Anthony Braxton's bassist of choice for much of the '90s, but also embarked on a rewarding outside career during the latter half of the decade, most notably as co-leader of the Fonda-Stevens Group. A native of the small upstate New York town of Amsterdam, Fonda came from musical stock; his parents met while performing together in a jazz orchestra. Fonda grew up interested in blues-rock and at first took guitar lessons, but switched to electric bass because none...
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Distance, Joe Fonda
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