Bask / Släkt
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CD cover Bäsk is a thinking person's folk band. Their ruminations on traditional Swedish folk forms are less likely to inspire you to get up and dance than to listen intently and then nod in agreement. The three men play about ten instruments between them, adding up to ... well you do the math on how many possible combinations that is. The constantly shifting tone colors keep things from getting stagnant. Flutes, fiddles, saxes, and percussion come together in intelligently thought-out counterpoints and delicate but deliberate brush strokes of sound. The hallings and polskas are more like tone poems than dances in Bäsk's capable hands. "Polska från Sörmland" is a lovely lilt rather than a foot-stomping dance floor lark.

In many ways, the group brings to mind the American English country-dance band Bare Necessities in its sophisticated instrumental technique and inventiveness of arrangements. The additional polyrhythm of African drums on "Kontradans" is a bit jarring at first, but they manage to weave the sound in as if it were the most natural thing in the world. A couple of short (less than one-minute) interludes highlight individual musicians while clearing the palate for the next track. Saxophonist Sten Källman gets to shine on "Liabrus" with a jazzy little solo. Jonas Simonson does a shakuhachi-like turn on the flute on the starkly beautiful "Ripan." Intimate and scholarly, lively without being raucous, Släkt will keep your toes tapping and give your brain cells a workout, too. - Peggy Latkovich

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