One distinguishing mark of San Francisco’s bustling Asian-American jazz community is its commitment to the use of non-Western instruments as tools for improvisation, and few figures on the scene are more exciting than Miya Masaoka, who plays jazz on the brittle-sounding Japanese zither known as the koto. Her training is in traditional Japanese music, but her improvising sounds at once carefully considered and effortlessly agile. On the 1997 trio recording Monk’s Japanese Folk Song (Dizim, 1997) she again and again finds ingenious ways to convey Thelonious Monk’s jagged lyricism using her twangy, unwieldy ax, and for a series of improvised duets with trombonist George Lewis on 1998’s The Usual Turmoil (Music & Arts), she coaxes all manner of unconventional sounds out of the instrument: discordant bowed double-stops, open-ended bass lines, and sheer clanky noise. As she demonstrates in Fred Frith’s project Maybe Monday, she’s also more than comfortable incorporating electronics into her setup. Here Masaoka performs solo. New York pianist Anthony Coleman is best known for collaborations with John Zorn and Marc Ribot. This week he’ll present two of his own projects–both of which have made albums for Zorn’s “Radical Jewish Culture” series–in stripped-down form: Thursday he performs with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and reedist Michael Attias, charter members of his wide-open improvising chamber ensemble, Selfhaters; on Friday he’ll lead drummer Tim Daisy and bass saxophonist Klaas Hekman in playing the music of his group Sephardic Tinge, which mixes the dark lyricism of Monk and Ellington with the minor modes of North Africa. The shows are part of the Empty Bottle’s eighth Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music; see listings for a complete schedule. Thursday, April 22, 9:30 PM, and next Friday, April 23, 10:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lori Eanes.