Fía na Roca - Dez Anos ao Vivo
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Fía na Roca
Dez Anos ao Vivo
DiscMedi (www.discmedi.com)

cd cover Galician septet Fía na Roca ('Spin on the Distaff') celebrates ten years of music with their fourth release, a live recording. But is this Spanish-Celtic smooth jazz, or jazz-inflected Galician traditional music? Who cares? The combination remains unique and seamless, as on their previous release, Contravento. Most tracks are instrumental, with Sonia Lebedynski contributing a light, clear, slightly nasal vocal to some, Xosé Ramón Vázquez' dynamic, unstopped piano providing a common base. One of the band's most effective musical strategies involves creating tension by laying lilting Celtic melodies atop unusual, often jazzy, beats and this, of course, requires a responsive percussion section. Fortunately, Fía na Roca's is hard to beat. The result is a big, rich Celtic orchestral sound, at times reminiscent of Canada's La Bottine Souriante.

The concert leads of with "Mikaela," opening to the sound of applause and a long, meditative intro featuring synthesized drone, piano glissando, and sinuous melody on fiddle and clarinet, resolving into a happy, jazzy tune, bass and drums maintaining tight rhythmic discipline, Xabier Bueno's soprano sax mixing jazzy blats and syncopation with a traditional melody. The pulsing common-time synth intro of "O Afiador de Tella" could signal a Sting number, but instead conspires with bass, drums, and audience clapping to hold a series of bouncy Spanish Celtic melodies on whistle and violin in a low-key dramatic tension. "Contravento" is quick, piano-driven common-time rock, with one of those lively, infectious melodies you were born humming, iterated on whistles and hair-raising gaita, a mid-track hoedown featuring violin and audience, an exciting and uplifting track. "A Mesquita's" tight tripping intro with violin, gaita, and mandolin in unison paves the way for Xabier Bueno's especially thrilling pipes as the number breaks out into a straight jazz-rock beat, sliding, glissing, racing through quarter-tones, a treat for bagpipe lovers. "De Folga," another swinging, jazzy Celtic melody pursued on violin and whistle, accelerates into a sprightly, piano-driven beat featuring Bueno's impossibly articulate pipes, giving way to a nearly Irish accelerating jig which characteristically turns into a full-scale instrumental brawl.

Over on the distaff side, "Cantar de Danza" offers a brief, quick, tambourine-driven tune, Lebedynski's vocal lilting over a complementary melody alternated with violin and gaita. Strummed bass and picked violin lay a dramatic foundation for Lebedynski's vocal on "A Cega de Pena"; on middle verses, her vocal ascends to a unique level of effort and excitement. As on the album Contravento, the dramatic "Baile de Pandeiras" is the highpoint, a careful common-time beat that continually threatens to accelerate, Lebedynski's vocal at its best, breathless and riveting, accented by shrill gaita grating against smooth violin.

Production values are excellent for a live recording and audience hand percussion (i.e., clapping) adding compelling immediacy to many tracks. Notes are in Galician. Fía na Roca's music transcends language and even style; it will bring a smile. - Jim Foley

CDs available from cdRoots

The ensemble's web site: www.fianaroca.com

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