Jazz Weekly: Min Xiao-Fen – Metta


Echoes.org/March 29, 2024 (click here to read article)

Blanknews: Min Xiao-Fen with River Guerguerian – Big Ears Festival 2024 review 

Wayne Bledsoe/March 24,2024 (click here to read article)

“One of the underappreciated elements of Big Ears is when music artists provide live accompaniments to films. This year’s offering was Chinese-born multi-instrumentalist Min Xiao-Fen and American River Guerguerian performing a soundtrack to two short silent Chinese films from the 1920s. The first was “Romance of the Fruit Peddler,” a spirited slapstick that still resonated with its humor and heart. The second, “Romance of a Western Chamber,” was a less-likable drama full of action, combat and societal manners.

Xiao-Fen and Guerguerian utilized several different instruments, with Xiao-Fen mostly playing native Chinese instruments and Guerguerian performing on a wide variety of things from around the world, everything from a didgeridoo to a single-string Brazilian instrument and all manner of percussion. Xiao-Fen also contributed vocals, which went from high and delicate to deep, almost throat-singing growls. While the combination worked beautifully on the first film, for the second, the music was far more interesting than the film. Still, it was a delight to sit in one of the most beautiful and best sounding halls in the South watching hundred-year-old films along with intriguing music.”

DownBeat: Min Xiao-Fen’s Pipa Solo on ‘Hatha”

Jimi Durso/February issue 2024 (click here to read article)

SFCV.org: Music@Menlo Emphasizes Entertainment in Festival Finale

David Bratman/August 8, 2023 (click here to read article)

“Tan Dun’s Concerto for String Quartet and Pipa, written in 1999 (a reworking of the composer’s Ghost Opera from 1994), also has theatrical content. The pipa, played here by virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen, is a Chinese plucked instrument resembling a European lute and usually played in tremolo, like a mandolin. The string quartet alternates between imitating the pipa with plucks and snaps and sounding as unlike it as possible: heavy thumps, deep grinding sounds, tuning up in the middle of the music. All the musicians were barefoot Saturday, the better to stomp their feet and for the quartet to stand up, still playing, and exit quietly at the end, in the manner of Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony. At another point, second violinist Kristin Lee danced around each of her colleagues while playing wildly and then ran out of energy and sat down with a theatrical sigh. There are passages of soft beauty in this music, and the pipa is never harsh. This work is more than its theatrics.

Bold live: An Ear for the Avant-Garde

Bill Kopp/July 1,2023 (click here to read article)

The Oregonian: Genre-defying music by pipa player gives new life to forgotten Chinese silent film

James Bash/

Los Angeles Times: A Day of Fringe Ritualistic Opera and Jazz Orchestra Quirkiness

Mark Swed/August 21, 2018  (click here to read the article) 

“Min adds percussive strumming to a wailing electric guitar solo. She moons with a bass. She produces floating melodic lines that intersect with a solo trumpet. In the strangest of all movements, ‘Diva Cubana,” she vocalizes like a Chinese opera singer with trombone, and dashes off Cuban rhythms that have a particularly nice ring on the pipa.”

Eugene Weekly: Music For Changing Times

Brett Campbell/October 4, 2018 (click here to read the article)

“Daniel Schnyder’s jazzy, dramatic ​Concerto for Pipa​, spotlights another stellar soloist, Min Xiao-Fen, a virtuosa who is the Jimi Hendrix of the banjo-like pipa, an instrument also called the Chinese lute.”

Jazziz: The Sweet Taste of Freedom

Shaun Brady/January, 2018 (click here to read the article)

“Monk’s music has become intertwined with her own on Min’s most personal release to date, ‘Mao, Monk and Me.’ The striking album reimagines Monk’s iconic melodies for the pipa, the Chinese lute of which Min is a long-recognized master and innovator, fusing those jazz classics with traditional Chinese folk songs and Min’s startlingly original sounds.”

DownBeat: Making A Different Monk 

Matthew Kassel/March, 2018 (Click here to read the article)

“Min knows who she said. With the release of the new album, she feels she has finally found her place in jazz: “This is me.”

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

Joseph Horowitz /March 3, 2005 (click here to read more)

“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.”

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 (click here to read more)

“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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Press quotes:

James McQuillen – The Oregonian

“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.”

Peter Margasak – Chicago Reader

“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.”

James R. Oesterich – The New York Times

“Ms. Min would have stopped the show even without the intermission that followed, with her wildly virtuosic ‘Ambush on 10 Sides’.”

John Von Rhein – Chicago Tribune

“Philip Glass’ score… using such traditional Asian instruments as the pipa–a four stringed lute fluidly played by the astonishing virtuosa Min Xiao-Fen.”

Scott Cantrell – The Dallas Morning News

“Chen Yi’s Duo Ye is a virtuoso showpiece for the twangy, lute-like pipa, brilliantly played by Min Xiao-Fen.”

Jim Macnie – The Village Voice

“Her improve work with Derek Bailey and John Zorn has taken her ancient Chinese string instrument into the future.”

Jim Fusilli – Wall Street Journal

“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.”

Ben Ratliff – The New York Times

“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.”

Ted Shen – Chicago Tribune 1999 Season Highlights

“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.”

Joshua Kosman – San Francisco Chronicle

“The pipa was played with ferocious aplomb by the remarkable Min Xiao-Fen.”

Mark Swed – Los Angeles Times

“Min is a mesmerizing performer on the plucked Chinese instrument, the pipa.”

John von Rhein – Chicago Tribune

“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.”

David Stabler – The Oregonian

“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.”

William Glackin – Sacramento Bee

“…one of the world’s greatest pipa players.”

Joshua Kosman – San Francisco Chronicle

“…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.”

Allan Ulrich – San Francisco Examiner

“Min Xiao-Fen is an enchanting exponent of the pipa.”

Clarke Bustard – Richmond Times-Dispatch

“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.”

Marilyn Hudson – 20th Century Music

“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.”

Chris Salocks – Oakland Tribune

“The pipa is said to be the most virtuosic of all Chinese instruments, and Min Xiao-Fen certainly showed off its capabilities.”

Cliff Furnald – CMJ

“It was truly inspiring concert, one of those rare shows you’ll remember for a long time.”

Heidi Waleson – The Wall Street Journal

“Toward the end of – Marco Polo, there is a wonderful onstage pipa solo, all fierce and acidic strings, played by Min Xiao-Fen.”