In every musical genre there are stars, and then there are superstars. To recognize who they are in any particular musical category, you have to be plugged into it because, unlike the inescapable trumpeting and mass media promotions of popular commercial music, the more fringe styles of musical expression are often an acquired taste. The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy has built a reputation for the past five years in presenting off-the-beaten-track musical superstars that the general public has never heard of.
Wednesday night was no exception to that rule as baritone saxophonist, bandleader, recording artist, composer, educator, lecturer and author Fred Ho joined tenor saxophonist, educator, bandleader, recording artist and writer Salim Washington for an evening of some music and mostly lecture with an original music video by each opening their individual presentation segments.
Washington’s message was about the creation and emergence of African-American musical idioms and their connection to American society and its culture. Ho’s presentation touched on subjects as varied as “capitalism causes cancer” – Ho is surviving with terminal cancer – to the Afro-Asian musical connection.
The two men billed as the Afro Asian Scientific Soul Duo not only share music between them, but they both were educated at the pinnacle of the American university system: Harvard. And as minority individuals, both men have experienced the difficulties of life and their creative pursuits in a “white” society – although the majority of the folks in attendance at the Sanctuary fell into that category.
Nevertheless, Ho and Washington are top-notch saxophonists and musical stars in their own right. When they did play their instruments – individually or collectively – it was vibrant, dynamic and passionate. It’s because these two men don’t play mainstream jazz that the jazz public at large doesn’t know who they are. And that’s a shame because either one of them could play circles around the Branford Marsalis and Kenny Gs of the commercial jazz world.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk