Michel Macias is one of those rare musicians who can take songs from a wide variety of traditions, genres, and countries and re-present them so that they (and the world around them) sound new. The treatments go beyond the strictly traditional, but are certainly sufficiently informed to be a contribution to each tradition, while displaying Macias' remarkable vitality and his own sense of style.
On his second CD, Caļ Caļ Caļ, Macias and his button accordion take music from and inspired by French musette and swing, Latin rhythms, Basque trixitixa, Macedonian/ Bulgarian (Rom) wedding music (an infectious concoction of traditional Eastern European Rom music, itself affected by many Middle Eastern traditions, with a hearty dose of Western jazz), and even Martinique soukous. He is ably and energetically backed by Vincent Macias (acoustic guitar, voice) and Eric Duboscq (non-upright acoustic bass guitar). Vincent Girardon (five-string violin) provides harmony and takes occasional warm, hearty leads.
Macias is truly masterful on all his Western European material. His swing waltzes are fluid as well as surprising, technical masterpieces without sounding technical in the least; lots of duple rhythms overlaying triple rhythms and other rhythmic experimentation. One of my favorite Gus Viseur tunes, "Flambee Montalbanaise," is fabulously represented here. The tunes from the musette tradition are generally accordion solos, but are so complete in themselves that I didn't miss the other instruments. And Tony Murena's jazzed up La Godasse is all over the map.
The real surprise is how wonderfully well Macias adopts the Turkish-influenced Rom (gypsy) Eastern European styles to his own. It is clear that Macias is not a Balkan accordionist, yet the melodies and rhythms belong to him. He can be outrageously up front about it, as on "La Morsure" (Macias' own, in 11/16), but he can also be amazingly subtle. The title track, which the liner notes present as "a lullaby from [Macias'] earliest childhood memories," is in an unusual rhythm, yet one doesn't notice right away since it is so laid back and tuneful. (I don't know many parents who sing lullabies in 13/16, so perhaps Macias and company took some liberties.) The track we feature here (the lead-off track to the CD) translates as "Rom elegy," but there's nothing elegiac about either the tune or the treatment. And we don't even blink when he throws in Scottish ornaments in a Macedonian tune or blues in a tune dedicated to Bulgaria's Ivo Papasov - the exuberant whole justifies all of its parts. Nothing feels out of place here, and Macias seems to be at home whereever his tune is. The final track, "Mam'zell," features Macias on piano and is curious enough to defy description. - Don Weeda
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