Recording information: Blue Moon Studios, London; St. Peter's Church, Strumpshaw, Norfolk.
First it must be admitted that listening to solo melody instruments -- except those which, like the piano, can provide their own accompaniment -- takes a lot of patience. Either that or a passionate love of the sound of the instrument in question. The shakuhachi is the sort of instrument one could fall in love with. It is a back-blown, five-hole flute, traditionally made of bamboo. It has a breathy, woody timbre similar to the Middle Eastern nay and distinct from the silvery tones of the Western flute. On this disc, the shakuhachi is played by Richard Stagg, who is a flutist in the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He was trained by a Japanese master and has performed in Japan, so his credentials are good, even though he is not Japanese. Some tracks stand out, even to a non-aficionado: "Shingetsu (New Moon)" uses a low, reverberating phrase to set the mood; "Gekko Roteki (A Flute in the Moonlight)" is a slow, sinuous, sad piece that calls up images of flowers and moonlight. This disc is not for everyone, but it is beautiful. ~ Kurt Keefner