New York Times: The Musical Odyssey of Min Xiao-Fen

Joseph Horowitz /March 3, 2005

Min Xiao-Fen, who performs at the BAM Cafe tomorrow, is a pipa player like no other. When she speaks the language of Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington or Miles Davis, the results are not ersatz but transformational. In her trio, Blue Pipa, with guitar and double bass, the lutelike pipa becomes a super-banjo.

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Wall Street Journal: Asian-Fusion Sound With Notes of Jazz

Chinese Musician Mixes Improv and Eastern Traditions While Playing Instrument With 2,000-Year History

Larry Blumenfeld /March 1, 2013

Min Xiao-Fen plucked and strummed a pipa, the four-stringed Chinese instrument she has played since childhood, at Flushing Town Hall one recent Sunday. Together with a string quartet and then solo, she summoned the sharp percussive tones and quivering vibrato associated with her instrument. She also evoked further-flung sounds: a banjo’s twang; a violin’s lyrical lines; and the crisscrossing overtones of a Resonator guitar. She played music by Tan Dun, a Chinese composer who has notably fused Eastern and Western traditions, and an original piece that blended elements of jazz and blues with snatches of songs from Jiangsu, an eastern Chinese province.

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The New York City Jazz Record: Min Xiao-Fen

Kurt Gottschalk/March 2013

Last month, pipa player Min Xiao-Fen was at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, playing a matinee concert with the Momenta Quartet in a program that included her own compositions as well as a piece by the celebrated Chinese composer Tan Dun, one of the first contemporary composers she worked with after moving to San Francisco 13 years ago. Playing Tan’s concerto for pipa and string quartet she fell in with the staccato of the string quartet and played so fast sometimes that her plectra against the pipa strings sounded like the scratching of a bow pulled lightly over violin strings. On her solo piece “ABC (American Born Chinese)”, she played with a slide, coaxing ‘blue’ notes and half- and quarter-tone wavers from her instrument. She further explored those bent tones in her “Tan Tan, Chang Chang”, a piece that borrowed from Southeast Chinese traditions as well as American blues and bluegrass, played on the banjo-like sanxian.

Click here to read the article: The New York City Jazz Record

Global Rhythm Magazine: Min Xiao-Fen – Cooking with Pipa

Charles Blass/August 2008

Wisps of smoke and fiery flashes of heat escape from the sonic cauldron of Min Xiao-Fen’s Asian Trio, at once ancient and timeless. An entranced audience at New York’s downtown performance space The Kitchen ingests a feast of harmoniously contrasting musical dishes where flavors blend and blur, ranging from cool pointillism to tangy ornate embellishment and everything in between. On Min’s ever-adaptable palate, whispering acoustics give way to deep-fried electronics, and slashing, sour howls can segue into red-hot thrash-improv.

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The New York City Jazz Record: Dim Sum

Kurt Gottschalk/April 2013

Pipa player Min Xiao-Fen has run parallel paths for over a decade since leaving her native China (where she was a well-regarded classical player) and relocating to San Francisco then New York and discovering the alternate trails of jazz and free improvisation along the way. She cut her avant teeth in a cold-call session with free improv granddaddy Derek Bailey in 1998 and has since worked with Wadada Leo Smith, Randy Weston and others, merging her traditional background with various strains of Western discoveries. Recordings under her own name have been few along the way, however, and her new album might be seen as a pinnacle thus far. Like the meal it’s named for, Dim Sum serves up a variety of small pieces, which, taken together, make for a satisfying whole.

Click here to read the article: Dim Sum and Concert Review

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