Based in Tokyo, Keiko Higuchi is a vocalist and instrumentalist internationally renowned both for her solo performances and extensive collaborations in the world of underground improvisation, jazz and the avant garde. On Vertical Language, Higuchi has created an evocative and hauntingly beautiful album that unfurls in equal parts light and darkness, form and emptiness. On solo voice and piano as well as in duets with bassist Louis Inage, Higuchi performs a collection of songs and improvisations that take unexpected paths; her voice and piano starkly, soulfully emerge. They gradually take form as sparse notes resonate and build into intense layers of sound. The music is unvarnished and deeply personal- it embraces traditional Japanese and spiritual musics as well as even jazz and bossa nova but never completely turning itself over to their familiar forms.
More than simply an album title “Vertical Language” refers to the distinctive musical approach that Higuchi has developed over the past twenty years. Her music is centered on the breathe and pulse- rather than set ‘horizontal’ musical rhythms or structures. It illuminates the connection between the artist’s body and sound. In her music piano chords and voice sound out in an instant and expand, floating off in new directions. The music embraces silence and negative space or the Japanese concept of “Ma” as well as the small ‘imperfections’ that any moment or sound might contain. Each moment in her music is as much imbued with what came before as what will come next - each note expands in space and can never be seen from just one perspective. In her music, Higuchi is constantly taking us to a place that neither she or we can quite yet see.