In April 2009 (Juche 98) the Anglo/Dutch saxophone trio Airkraft (Pete Whyman and Chris Caldwell from the Delta Saxophone Quartet and Frank Van De Kooij from Hugh Hopper's Band) started on a journey from Europe to Beijing with their final destination being Pyongyang, the capital of Democratic Peoples Republic Of Korea (DPRK), known in Europe as North Korea.
The arrival in Pyongyang was courtesy of a 30 hour train journey from Beijing, quite an extraordinary experience in itself. Airkraft was scheduled to perform a series of music sets in a variety of theatres by special invitation of the Organising Committee of The 'April Spring Friendship Art Festival'.. the trio met their two young delightful guides in the evening gloom of Pyongyang station.. this cultural adventure had now really begun.
This CD is the retrospective recording which was the result of this ten day adventure back in the Spring of 2009. It is a travelogue which combines the trios collective improvisations, Frank Van De Kooijs musical sketches with field samples taken from the streets and state media of the DPRK. (Listen out for the Pyongyang Express, the DPRK national anthem, Arirang, and the most enthusiastic introductions ever).
The music draws its inspiration from progressive rock, contemporary classical and many references to the European free jazz school, perhaps feint echoes of a previous all British saxophone trio SOS (Surman, Osborne and Skidmore) even spring to mind.
In many ways the music here mirrors the sights and sounds of the DPRK, organised, angular, meticulous and industrial, but behind this veil lies the more tender, sweet and melancholic side of life. Just like Europeans, it seems that the people of the DPRK just want to eat, drink and be merry.. sadly, sometime, that's the problem.
A brilliant and a beautiful album.. Fiona Talkington,Late Junction BBC radio 3
Highly evocative..Jazz UK
Very accessible, quite alluring, and bonus points for field recordings of trains during an interlude. Find of the Week E music
Tender compositions in which tenor and baritone typically harmonise the rhythmic foundation for Pete Whyman’s blazing, agile, pure-toned soprano solos..London Jazz
Poignant, somber and even melodic sounds, It all flows together superbly from one section to the next.. DMG New York
A beautiful CD, VPRO (Dutch radio)