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Maria Kalaniemi and Timo Alakotila
Amigo (

cd cover Accordionist Kalaniemi and pianist Alakotila have been musical companions for more than ten years, and it shows. The music of this Finnish duo soars and swoops like birds in flight. Alakotila's sparkling sonorities lift Kalaniemi's graceful lines to dizzying heights. Seductive tangos and rousing folk tunes alike are played with lush aplomb. Alakotila's piano style will bring to mind the work of Jackie Schwab, with its melodic sweep and harmonic inventiveness. Occasionally he leans a little too close to being loungey, as in the otherwise gorgeous noir-ish tango "Kuujärvi," but he veers out of it just in time.

While both instruments have solo and accompanying capabilities, it is rare that either takes a back seat to the other. Rather, they work in close tandem like a pair of skilled dancers. "Kangaspelto" is a robust polka with a buoyant lift. "Oradea" is fast-paced but never frantic, flurrying like dry leaves on a windy day. The gushy string quartet on the last track, the epically titled "On Yö Ja Tähdet Taivahalla (Rakovalkealla - Vid lägerelden)," teeters dangerously close to redlining the schmaltz-o-meter, but again, good taste prevails and they shake it off to end on a moody, melancholy note. Refined yet deeply felt, Ambra could not be more elegant. - Peggy Latkovich

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