Ron Korb,
Behind the Mask
(self-produced, 1995; 2000)

All lovers of flute music owe it to themselves to learn more about Ron Korb if they aren't familiar with his work already. Korb's CD Behind the Mask showcases beautiful melodies inspired by styles from around the world. You can hear the sounds of Asia (China, Indonesia, Japan), Europe (Spain, U.K.) and the Americas (Caribbean, U.S.) in the 15 tracks presented here.

The idea behind this CD is to present a story in musical form. The CD liner notes explain the tale in quite a bit of detail. However, to quote the shortened version found in the promotional materials, the tale is "of an ancient kingdom where a prince is tricked by shadow puppeteers into leaving his homeland in search of the Land of Riches. It is written in epic style with many layers of symbolism."

Korb is a graduate from the University of Toronto where he studied flute performance. He has spent years traveling and studying flutes from all over the world. On Behind the Mask, Korb plays bamboo flute, silver flute, alto flute, dizi (Chinese flute), suling (Javanese flute), kecak, didgeridoo and keyboards.

Korb heads the Kappa band which includes George Gao (erhu or Chinese violin), Ray Hickey Jr. (Spanish guitar, steel string guitar, koto, pipa, octave mandolin and guitar synth), Richard Brown (fretless bass and shamisen), Larry Crowe (drum kit, dumbek, tar, anklung, Latin and Chinese percussion), Bill Evans (grand piano and Hammond M3 organ), Blair MacKay (gamelan), Eric Terreau (piano and keyboards), Joanne Meis (Celtic harp and pedal harp), and Lance Anderson (accordion).

My favorite selection on Behind the Mask is "Dark Eyes," a piece heavily influenced by Spanish guitar playing. I almost expected to hear flamenco dancers when I first heard it. Instead, Korb eventually joins in with the flute for a rousing good five minutes. At first, I was a little surprised at how well the Spanish guitar and flute sound together. Now I simply enjoy the tune. (In fact, I often repeat it when I play the CD).

"Shadow Dance" is another fun track. The flute melody has a simple, yet catchy hook that dares you not to nod along in time. I often find myself whistling this piece without thinking about it. Towards the second half of the song, some superb guitar playing kicks in playing the same melody. The sound is different, yet complementary at the same time. I like it.

Fans of instrumental world music in general and flute music in particular are sure to find something exquisite on this CD. The music has a new age appeal. Surprisingly, while the pieces are inspired from cultures around the globe and much of the playing is very distinct in its style, the transitions from track to track are seamless throughout. Ron Korb's CD Behind the Mask (as well as his other work) is worth checking out.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 24 August 2002

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