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Nube Negra (www.nubenegra.com)

Some members of the Basque pop-rock band Urgabe have recently created a folk ensemble called Korrontzi, based on the trikitixa or Basque diatonic accordion. The accordion was introduced to the Basque Country by Lombard immigrants in the 19th century and came to prominence in Basque folk music, replacing the traditional alboka in duos with the tambourine, or panderoa. The spirit of those original trikitilaris is alive in this very up-to-date recording.

Since the 1960s, the trikitixa has had a huge revival and now, with such practitioners as Kepa Junkera and Joseba Tapia, is the superstar instrument of Basque folk music, and even works its way into rock (Tapia played on some Negu Gorriak albums) so it seems natural that members of a Basque pop-rock band should return to their roots in triki.

Korrontzi is hardly traditional though, as still practiced today by the likes of Imuntzo eta Beloki. It is more of a 'world-roots' triki in the manner of Junkera. Accordionist Agus Barandiaran is a fine player and not a step behind Junkera, Tapia or others in either sensitivity or dexterity. Like Junkera, Barandiaran is also the grandson of Basque musicians, and in a similar way he takes this music and makes it new. (Not surprisingly, some of Urgabe's band members have also ended up with Junkera.)

This CD is also a tribute to the trikitilaris of old, including Thomas Sitzes (the subject of a short video included on the disc) and Barandiaran's aitxitxe (grandfather).

Korrontzi is Barandiaran (accordion and vocal), Mikel Romero (mandolin, acoustic guitar), Ander Garcia (bass), Iker Lope de Bergara (alboka, txistu), and Pedro Martinez (drums and percussions) and guests include Aritza Bergara-Iker Diez (txalaparta). The music has a freshness and spirit that is infectious. Barandiaran and Romero have a great rapport, and the twin pillars of guitar or mandolin and accordion shine brightly.

There is also enough variety: Ainara Arrizabalaga's sweet vocals on "Panderotxoa" and vocal tracks by Barandiaran such as "Sitzes" lend counterpoint to spirited instrumentals like "Atalatoi." "Laiotz" starts slowly but builds with a bright bit of triki, some percussion, and joined by the alboka.

It has its odd moments too: On "Ataungo Ardi Beltza," the txalaparta turns up in an extended solo (reminding me a bit of one of drummer Neil Peart's).

There's even a remix of "Belardi" as a bonus track at the end, an odd blend of folk with techno.

All in all, though, Korrontzi is a fresh and lively new band, one that owes something to the big shadow of Kepa Junkera across the Basque Country, but certainly features its own talents as well. It seems the musical legacy of the Basque country is in good hands. - David Cox

The band's web site: www.korrontzi.net
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