The high point was two pieces by Min Xiao-Fen played by the composer herself on pipa (a Chinese sort of lute) and ruan (or “moon guitar,” with four strings and a circular body). The first was inspired by John Cage and the second was the glorious offspring of American blues and Chinese folk song. Both were captivating in themselves and even more so in the hands of their composer, an astonishing musician whose mind is as quick as her fingers; with voice and hands she recalled flamenco guitar and Robert Johnson while deftly laying out polyphonic lines like child’s play. It was the kind of performance for which one holds the word “genius” in reserve.
James McQuillen – The Oregonian
Min Xiao-Fen’s Asian Trio – The Asian Trio doesn’t exactly stick to Asian music – the name has more to do with where the musicians are from than what they play. Korean cellist Okkyung Lee and Japanese percussionist Satoshi Takeishi are both important figures on New York’s jazz and improvised –music scenes, and at least in this group bandleader Min Xiao-Fen favors and elastic, expansive strain of improve that’s not hitched to any particular idiom-though she plays a traditional lutelike instrument called the pipa, she only occasionally betrays her Chinese roots. Since moving from China to New York in 1992, Min has moved fluidly between radically different communities-Chinese classical music, jazz, free improv -and worked with everyone from Tan Dun to Randy Weston to Derek Bailey. This trio just might show off that malleability best. A live set recorded in Philadelphian in 2007 (slated for release on a new label run by Arts Nova, Philly’s most important jazz and improvised-music presenter) includes chaotic textural passages, where Min injects the tumble of notes with vocal shouts and whinnies; gently lyrical spells, where Lee’s lovely bowing forms a plush cushion for Min’s spindly pipa; and electronically refracted episodes, where Takeishi switches from drums to live processing that warps and colors his bandmate’s output.
Peter Margasak – Chicago Reader
Ms. Min would have stopped the show even without the intermission that followed, with her wildly virtuosic ‘Ambush on 10 Sides’.
James R. Oesterich – The New York Times
Philip Glass’ score… using such traditional Asian instruments as the pipa–a four stringed lute fluidly played by the astonishing virtuosa Min Xiao-Fen.
John Von Rhein – Chicago Tribune
Chen Yi’s Duo Ye is a virtuoso showpiece for the twangy, lute-like pipa, brilliantly played by Min Xiao-Fen.
Scott Cantrell – The Dallas Morning News
Her improve work with Derek Bailey and John Zorn has taken her ancient Chinese string instrument into the future.
Jim Macnie – The Village Voice
The best moments came when guitars were back in their cases and their predecessors took the stage- Min Xiao-Fen offered songs she wrote as well as a piece by Tan Dun on the Pipa, a four-sting instrument from China that dates back some 1,800 years.
Jim Fusilli – Wall Street Journal
An Improbably effective trio of strings started it off: the Senegalese kora player Abdou M’Boup, the Chinese pipa player Min Xiao-Fen, and the American jazz violinist Regina Carter all blended, with the kora determining rhythm and scale, the pipa layering scratchy excitable figurations and the violin adding flowing Coplandesque lines.
Ben Ratliff – The New York Times
The pipa player extraordinaire brandished her virtuosic skills coaxing cascades of pearly notes from the pear like Chinese lute in a medley of traditional tunes.
Ted Shen – Chicago Tribune 1999 Season Highlights
The pipa was played with ferocious aplomb by the remarkable Min Xiao-Fen.
Joshua Kosman – San Francisco Chronicle
Min is a mesmerizing performer on the plucked Chinese instrument, the pipa.
Mark Swed – Los Angeles Times
The Chen Yi piece was a demonstration of the incredible array of exotic sounds the virtuosic Min Xiao-Fen was able to produce on the pipa.
John von Rhein – Chicago Tribune
Sitting perfectly still, Min held the upright lute in her lap and, using graceful hand gestures, transported listeners with an array of single tones, delicate warps in pitch and thick chord clusters.
David Stabler – The Oregonian
…one of the world’s greatest pipa players.
William Glackin – Sacramento Bee
…in Min Xiao-Fen’s ferocious, poised reading, the piece’s magnificent flurry of strummed chords, rapid repeated notes and spidery melodies proved even more impressive.
Joshua Kosman – San Francisco Chronicle
Min Xiao-Fen is an enchanting exponent of the pipa.
Allan Ulrich – San Francisco Examiner
In Min’s hands, the pipa is something else entirely: an instrument capable of producing virtuoso figurations, subtle sonorities and vivid sound effects. Her performance was hypnotically intense and showed Min’s artistry in a range of expressions and dramatic characterizations.
Clarke Bustard – Richmond Times-Dispatch
Min Xiao-Fen showed off the powers of the ancient Chinese lute in consummate exhibition of demanding technique and musicianship. Dazzling cascades of notes and percussive reps, sustained crescendos and decrescendos were all a part of the mix as were wide ranges of mood.
Marilyn Hudson – 20th Century Music
The pipa is said to be the most virtuosic of all Chinese instruments, and Min Xiao-Fen certainly showed off its capabilities.
Chris Salocks – Oakland Tribune
It was truly inspiring concert, one of those rare shows you’ll remember for a long time.
Cliff Furnald – CMJ
Toward the end of – Marco Polo, there is a wonderful onstage pipa solo, all fierce and acidic strings, played by Min Xiao-Fen.
Heidi Waleson – The Wall Street Journal