Archipelago
Archipelago
CCn'C (www.ccnc.de)

In which an American accordionist (William Schimmel), Estonian bassoonist (Martin Kuuskmann) and Russian percussionist (David Rosenblatt) team up in New York City and produce sounds that are, in turns, part Lawrence Welk, part Piazzolla, and part deconstruction dada. As you listen, you can't help but laugh, a lot, as when Joey D's "Peppermint Twist" is played by what sounds like a frantic minimalist avant-garde street band. Or when Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" is rendered first as a melancholic folk tune, is then twisted into a cool jazz number, is combined somehow with "A Taste of Honey," and has all of its original pompousness is sucked out of it, leaving, amazingly, a great tune. Other songs sound hopelessly romantic and beautiful, but then can careen off into a moment of goofiness, as on "Piazzolla/Getz." And there are stunning remakes of classics like "Autumn Leaves" and "Walk on the Wild Side," which evoke a fifties/early-sixties America, but one that has been remade as much more cosmopolitan, open, elegant and wacky than we ever remembered it. The playing is simply astonishing. You wonder how such amazing sounds can be produced by an accordion and bassoon, of all things (percussion, while brilliant, is absent from many tracks), as the players shift seamlessly (and often in the same song) from tango to rock 'n' roll to jazz to classical to samba and back again. Schimmel, who has worked with Tom Waits and The Tango Project, and Kusskmann, a member of Absolute Ensemble and Martinika, manage to elevate the status of their instruments, usually seen as marginal to pop music, on this supremely delightful, unclassifiable, and essential release. - Ted Swedenberg

Hollow Ear

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