THE BIG SQUEEZE: ACCORDION REVIEWS
We have reorganized the RootsWorld Free Reed Pages.
The correct address is www.rootsworld.com/freereed/

The new menu for The Big Squeeze Reviews is now http://www.rootsworld.com/freereed/reviews.html

Please update your bookmarks and tell your friends and web masters?

accordions

If you have a web site you want to tell folks about, an instrument to sell or a recording to recommend, please use our Guest Book to tell the world. You should also use rec.music.makers.squeezebox as a tool for spreading the word.

If you like the accordion, you might also like bagpipes!


This 1988 compilation is still one of the best intros to this accordion driven music
Brazil Forro: Music For Maids And Taxi Drivers
Rounder-US; Globestyle-UK

The word "forro" is Brazilian pronunciation of "for all," and that's what this music is about: folk music in the rock 'n' roll tradition, played by anyone with an instrument, just for the joy of it. This is the rockabilly of Brazil; raw, rhythmic Saturday night party stuff. Other comparisons might be zydeco or TaxMax, but mostly this is its own thing, influenced by the popular sambas and played on European instruments in a region with heavy African roots and an indigenous culture. Unlike the samba or the bossa nova, it's ragged but right; you feel it before you hear it. And don't expect social commentary or subtle poetry-like zydeco, forro is about love and sex, sweaty nights after hard days. The ensembles are similar as well; accordions, drums, triangle and bass back up the vocals, usually soloists in an uptempo mode made for dancing. Pick hits would have to be "Linda Menhina" and "De Pernambuco Ao Maranhao," both real rock 'n' roll types, and the very rootsy "Entre E Sai," played on just accordion and drum. If there's a place like Mulates in the northeast of Brazil, this is what's on stage, playing to the local truckers and ranchers, the taxi drivers and the maids. And I'll bet they love it!


ROD STRADLING
Rhythms of The Wold
Xenophile-US; Rogue-UK

While the rest of the folk world in the 70s was hopelessly enamoured with Irish fiddle tunes, Stradling and friends were reviving and reinventing the English country dances. From his folk work with Oak to his dub-reggae-set dance fusions with Tiger Moth, Rod took the accordion where Albion sun never rose, and made some damn interesting music. This release continues the new tradition in a set of old style tunes set to slide guitars, saxophones and electric rhythm section. The center of it all is the energetic push and pull of his melodeon, a veritable orchestra in a box with no samples, just a lot of air and a lot of music. Bits of Italian, French and American folk tunes insinuate themselves into the proceedings nicely, and the spirited backing of his band Feckless is far from the definition of the name, all players being musically adept and clever. Rhythms of The Wold (as in "Cotswold," etc...) is another title in the continuing bad pun catalog of Rogue Records, England...


JOHN KIRKPATRICK BAND Force of Habit
Omnium

Box squeezer Kirkpatrick has been a ruling force in the revival of British roots music for a few decades. Whether as a member of bands like Steeleye Span or the Richard Thompson ensemble of the week, doing one off projects on historical traditions or electrified trad like Morris On!, he's always pushed buttons and limits when he could without ever losing the old sound of the concertina and button accordion that made his work stand out. Force of Habit is a live recording from a 1995 tour, merging all of these elements of his career into an exuberant, sometimes aberrant hour of energy and music. They cover folk chestnuts like "Princess Royal" and the Steeleye rocker "Seventeen Come Sunday" and give some of the best performances of Kirkpatrick's original songs like "Black Against The Snow" and "The Gas Almost Works." on record. "Blue Balloon," his sarcastic look at human evolution was an a capella song from the album of the same name, but here it's a rocker with a full band in full-venom mode. Excellent stuff from the madman of the free-reed.


KODÉ DI DONA offers us an alternative to the pop-morna sound of Cape Verde, an accordion festival of folk tunes on Cap-Vert (Ocora, via Harmonia Mundi). The funana of the small island of Santiago is a music made from traditional drum melodies of the island and the Portuguese choro brought there by European invaders and visitors along with the accordion at the turn of the century. Lumberjack, farmer, fisherman and now a ranger, his music is truly "folk" music made for the playing and not for the recording, and this is captured here in these fresh tracks.


DINO SALUZZI Cité de la Musique
ECM

Saluzzi has always been, in my opinion, the unsung genius of Argentine music. He has been taking the tango and other musical forms of Argentina and mixing them up with European classical and American jazz for most of his life, taking the bandoneon on a musical adventure that rivals Piazzolla's. Perhaps he's a bit too subtle to earn the applause given his audacious rival, but his is a creative, soulful exploration the is deserving of accolades.

Cité de la Musique is performed by a simple trio, with Marc Johnson on double bass and José Saluzzi (his son) on acoustic guitar. There is a darkness to this album that permeates even the most up-tempo sections, a subtlety and nuance that takes a lot of listening to fully appreciate, but that rewards the effort with grace, with beauty and with bittersweet romance.

The trio is commendable for its close interplay. This is not so much a bandoneon recording with accompaniment as it is a true collaboration between the three. Johnson's wiry, serpentine bass lines are a constant factor in the music, the younger Saluzzi's guitar insistent. The tango as played by this ensemble is an ever expanding heart, bearing both joy and pain in its every pulsation.


Flaco Jimenez
Partners
Reprise

Sooner or later, Flaco Jimenez would have to reach critical mass, accumulating enough well known musical friends that he would finally explode into the mainstream. His accordion has wheezed through dozens of records by as many pop, folk, and rock musicians, and some of them return the favor by being one of his Partners on his new record. Stephen Stills manages to imbue some life into his pop chestnut "Change Partners," mostly due to the squeezebox of Jimenez and compadre Oscar Tellez on the bajo sexteto. They turn out some solid norteno music, and do a fine turn with Linda Ronstadt on "El Puente Roto." John Hiatt's contribution is one of the finer moments, on his tune (co-penned with Ry Cooder) "Across The Borderline." Cooder, one of the first to discover the joys of Flaco, is all over the album, singing and playing in that inimitable style of his. The high point of Partners for me is Dwight Yoakum's rendering of "Carmelita." Warren Zevon's best song, and one of the most durable ballads of the 70s, it absolutely resonates in this setting. There are a few straight-ahead conjunto tunes, some of the best things on the record, in spite of the lack of "star power." The hard core Tex-Mex fan may find this all a bit too slick. But this works well as a way to present folk music to a new audience, displaying the local genius joined by the stars instead of sublimated by the glow of notoriety.


Planet Squeezebox Ellipsis Arts

As any of you who read this column know, I (and probably you!) am a particular fan of this instrument, and a champion of its more challenging players. Many argue that the century of the accordion has been the ruination of all local music from Tokyo to Kinshasha to the Straits Of Magellan, forcing all musical forms to conform to the rhythm and scale of its Germanic inventors (also an arguable theory). Planet Squeezebox covers the world, but unlike the uniformity of the paint, it finds its defenders playing all manner of music from classical to the most raw punk. There are some brilliant performances here, from Finland's Maria Kalaniemi and Sweden's Lars Hollmer to the Alpine punksters Attwenger. There is an abundance of familiar folk material from Ireland, the Americas and Africa, as well as a few surprises from Asia. But the choices for songs from many contemporary artists on this album seem terribly stereotyped. It's a cute approach, this "let's see what an accordion can do in the wrong place at the wrong time" theory. Many of the individual cuts are wonderful, and I can't fault the artists, most of whom have done far deeper, far-reaching work than what is heard here. The set is a mixed bag (box?). It has some great material, but lacks focus, and takes an important instrument and world culture and packages it a bit too neatly.


DINO SALUZZI, ANTHONY COX, DAVID FRIEDMAN
Rios
Intuition

Bandoneon master Saluzzi is often rightfully obscured by the shadow of Piazzolla. His playing is less ostentatious, his ideas more firmly rooted in jazz than tango, and his musical personality is more subdued. He uses a more subtle hand and ear to bring his box to life, and that could account for the second position in the ratings.

But Saluzzi is a master. And here, with mallet man David Friedman and bassist Anthony Cox, he has found another path for his Argentine roots. But this is not just a Saluzzi recording. Any name could have headed the list. Friedman's compositions are perhaps my favorites here, especially in their use of marimba and vibraphone. The interplay between the three on his "Penta y Uno" is flawless, low key and yet almost sexually provocative. The more uptempo title track, co-written by the trio, has some of these same elements as it snakes it's brief life across the speakers, alluring and ultimately unfulfilling. Rios is easy to overlook on a casual glance, but when you get to know it,you will be taken in.


EFISIO MELIS AND ANTONIO LARA
Launeddas
(Robi Droli, Strada Roncaglia 16, 15040 San Germano, Italy / e-mail: droli@inrete.alpcom.it).

The launeddas is a sort of proto accordion, a reed instrument with a wheezy, breezy tone. The duets and solos on these 7 tracks look back on old music that sounds so damn fresh, and devoid of the cheesy pop aspects these songs usually get treated to. This one is visceral and solid. The instruments are alone, with no pop or new-folk trappings. Excellent. - CF

Available at cdRoots


LA CIAPA RUSA Antologia (Robi Droli) - I am not an ardent fan of "revival" groups, being more inclined towards experimenting within a tradition. But there are a few bands who make a real impression on me with their ability to breathe life into the old songs while staying "in the tradition." La Ciapa Rusa is one of them. They are archivists, and proud of it in a country that doesn't always encourage such research. This chronological set follows their own development from a strict interpretation to their current looser approach, including, as they phrase it in the notes, "a polite use of electronics." But the heart of this music is the acoustic instruments; bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, piffero (a double reed wind instrument), accordion, many kinds of strings and percussion. Through every phase of their career, they have had great solo and group vocals, marvelously direct and earthy. Lively dance tunes and dark dirges; thundering choruses and sunny solos; herein are twenty examples of Italy's rich tradition, played with vitality by a changing group of virtuoso musicians who obviously love the music too much to mummify it.

Available at cdRoots



¡SABA SABA!

On Globestyle's 1989 trip to Mozambique, they captured the work of two bands, MIL-QUINHENTO '1500' & CONJUNTO POPOMBO DE NAMPULA and CONJUNTO NIMALA DE LALAUAH and put them on ¡Saba Saba! (GlobeStyle). They were recorded live in a local cinema and while different in instrumentation, they share a stripped down scratch band sound. Mil-Quinhento '1500' furiously strums a zither called a pankwe, a flat board with a tin can and a gourd for resonators. The band adds shakers, a bell-toned brake shoe, voices and nlapa, a tea chest with a gut string much like a wash tub bass. What makes Conjunto Popombo distinctive is the vocal work. A rapid fire call and response between the singers overlaps the syllables until they seem to be a single, unsingable torrent notes. It is style that the band's leader claims as his own innovation, and it drives this music to a percussive frenzy. Conjunto Nimala replaces the zither with the accordion of Nimala Carlos. His family supplies voices, shakers, another brake shoe bell and nlapa (actually, a bass drum with the same name as the tea chest bass). Again, the music is a percussive sound, played over a single chord and even the accordion provides a mostly rhythmic backing to the boisterous singing and whistling of the band. There is a flavor of Europe and the Caribbean, and even a hint of Indonesia in these songs about life in town, friends, parties and girls, girls, girls. This music is as healthy as it gets. ¡Low fat, no additives, lean and tasty!
More African Music Reviews?


You can never get enough squeeze, right? So how about three button accordions, a full blown chromatic and a bagpipe just to give it all a little color. Stir it all together and you get the quartet COCKTAIL DIATONIQUE (Keltia Musique, France). They present a varied program of traditioanal and original pieces, solo to full band, overlaying so many dromnes and appegios as to be dizzying at times. There are some virtuoso performances here, particularly their marvelous interpretation of "Acquarelli Cubani," composed by Luciano Fancelli, who the band refers to as "the Charlie Parker of the accordion." It's got great rhythmic attack and a fine swing. The other premier piece of the set is a soulful "Ma Commere, Ma Mie" arranged for bagpipes and chromatic box; lush and absolutely gorgeous. Then some Breton ballads, tunes, gavottes and drinking songs bring the album to its dénouement, a little accordion fired ragtime.


Here is another excursion into the traditional routes of French folk via an extremely modern interpretive vehicle. This quintet blends the earlier centuries of violins, diatonic accordion, woodwinds and country vocal styles with highly contemporary portions of electronics, processed marimba, strings and percussion. The resulting mix is truly a work worthy of the title, as it is a brash painting on a crude wall, strokes of folk imagery with a modern message. This is almost something of a genre in the new European folk scene, with notable recordings from bands like Ritmia, Filarfolket, and two recent Corsican fusions (David Reuff's Tra Ochu E Mare and Hector Zazou's Les Nouvelles Polyphonie Corses). All of these bands share a similar attitude, to mark the passage of time with a celebratory spirit, to revel in the ancient sounds, the primal memories, without ever becoming enslaved by convention. Compagnie Chez Bousca joins this core group of innovative revivalists. This work is primitive- modern in the best sense. The accordions and violins give it locale, the synths and woodwinds an international attitude. But what really attracts me about this music is its inherent swing, a Celtic swing to be sure, but one that also harkens to the Hot Club and The Onyx Club. "Pakkos Cafe" could easily be in homage to O'Carolan or Django, the fusion is that smooth and intertwined at times. Other cuts share the same ability to fuse and confuse, without ever getting away from the fluidity that defines this recording.
I saw this is the "world music" bin at a local record store last week. I guess all those French titles threw off some clerk. Then again, maybe it belongs there, as Cajun is one of the truly "local" cultures of America. It grew from continental migration, urban assimilation and rural defiance, absorbing what it needed to become truly unique, until after almost a century it became tradition. It is American Gypsy music, in its way. Michael Doucet is one of its stauchest supporters, reviving music and musican alike over the course of his career. He is also one of its most shameless innovators, blending urban soul, popular rock and black creole with the Acadian roots of the music, keeping it alive and healthy by knowing the roots, but fertilizing it well with whatever is around. Cajun Conja is definately in the latter category; a stomping, rocking, grinding good time that never gets derivative. Beausoliel has developed a mixed reputation as well, cranky out traditional dance music one minute, and shaking the rafters with electric twang the next. Mandolins, electric and acoustic guitars, drums and percussion underscore the standard fiddle and accordion of Cajun music.
Never enough of these little boxes of wheeze, I always say. This week we have them from France and Finland. ETIENNE GRANDJEAN TRIO takes the folk/jazz approach to their music, featuring electric guitar, saxophones, and the diatonic accordion of Mr. Grandjean. Their album Circus Valse (Escalibur/ Diffusion Breizh, Kerangwenn, F-29540 Spezed, France) takes Breton folk and urban café music and squeezes it through a little Ornette Coleman. They add no percussion or rhythm section, opting for a spare sound that accentuates the skewed harmonies and humorous innuendos. Using mostly traditional sources, the results are anything but "folky." Romantic melodies merge into screwy counterpoints, Latin and jazz references sneak in almost unnoticed, and the trio continually surprises you with each turn of phrase. Grandjean is a masterful player, and his digitally enhanced solo piece "Les Pierres Sonnantes" is proof of his skill and creativity.

FORRO ETC., etc., etc,...

Brazil Classics 3 (Luaka Bop/Sire) is also the third major release of this music of Brazil in the last few years, following Rounder's Music For Maids And Taxi Drivers and slightly ahead of Ryko's Asa Branca. I'll skip all the ethno-musicology the third time around, and just get to the music. The accordion is once again the center of this music, but in this set of more commercially accessible songs, it takes a back seat to production. Lots more voices, electric guitar solos and wind instruments make their appearence, and it is not without success. Luiz Gonzaga's oft covered "Asa Branca (White Wing)" is a good case in point. A wonderful chorus pulls this along at slow pace in keeping with it's story of dry land and diminishing hope. It's the most varied set from northeastern Brazil yet, and in all, a good collection of sometimes slick, sometimes gritty music from streets, the bars, and the studios...
The way I carry on about Astor Piazzolla, you'd think there was only one major proponent of the bandoneon in all of the world. Untrue, of course; there are two. Dino Saluzzi takes a radically different approach to the instrument and the music he makes with it, preferring a more atmospheric, jazz rooted sensibility. Where Piazzolla takes the accordion to the dark, weird alleys of the experimental mind, Saluzzi carries the soul of tango on a journey to the lush plains of jazzy rhythm. Most of his previous records have been stark landscapes for squeeze box and percussion, but on Mojotoro, he takes those same ideas and expands them into a seven piece band, adding more percussion, more bandoneons, and flutes, horns and electric bass. More straight-ahead jazz than before, cuts like "Mojotoro" show a pop side to the composer that is actually welcome. For nine minutes, Saluzzi actually gets a groove going and manages to almost keep it going, breaking it up for impact rather than "experiment." On a few cuts, like "Milongo," it gets a little schmaltzy for my own taste, but that is part of the essence of this music. The truly inspired work on Mojotoro, however, is when the ensemble builds that classic moodiness he is so famous for. The epic chamber piece "Mundos" moves through six movements of dark spirituality carried on accordions, percussion and chants, with a drifting improvisation here and there on the sax. This is where Saluzzi is at his best; sensual and earthy chords against a drifting melody line. It is music for the deepest part of the soul, music to enthrall rather than motivate.
Of all the European folk/experimental bands, few have made as much of an impression on me as Ritmia did in 1988. Their blend of Italian folk music and modern jazz and classical sensibilities was almost breathtaking at times. Two members of the group, Italian accordionist Riccardo Tesi and French mandolin player Patrick Vaillant have returned with a new album, even more daring than before. I have been sitting on this for a month or two, trying to think of a way to describe this music. It has a rich romanticism to it, a strolling café quality, if you will. The melodies are very strong, and really do linger in your head long after they've ended. The blend of accordion and mandolin is surprisingly full, each in turn supplying melody and rhythm that is stark but complete. The added accompianists are used sparingly, but to great effect. A few cuts feature a marimba, others a wonderfully raspy horn section of tuba, trombone and euphonium. Their use in the recording makes for some jarring juxtapositions, moving from the simple to the maniacal in the turn of a phrase. There are bows to almost everyhting imaginable, from African tradition to Charles Ives, but the real impact comes from the songs themselves. Both Tesi and Vaillant have a special feel for the music of their countries, and effectively convey a regional flavor without mimicking it. Their instrumental capabilities are also excellent, each a master of his instrument, and each capable of playing in unexpected ways, marking new and unusual ground for their respective tools.
While there are bands in abundance resurrecting the folk traditions of Brittany, there are only a handful that are expandiing those traditions. Ti jaz is one of them. Starting with a band of bass, drums and accordion, they have added the instruments of jazz: saxophones, and the instrument of ancient France: the bombarde, a raspy, woodwind with a bagpipe-like sound. So, too, have they melded these musical elements, the melodies and ideas of early French music with the improvisation of free jazz and the gut of rock. They pay hommage to the "ideal jazz" bands of 1940s and players like Yves Menez, who used horns, fiddle, accordion and banjo to create a new French folk music. In that same spirit, Ti Jaz sprawl across the musical landscape, one minute a dark dirge on bombarde, the next firing off a slap bass and drum riff that would settle in nicely at The Knitting Factory. The eight instrumental works on Rêves Sauvages are sometimes chaotic, often lyrical and always challenging. They achieve power without electricity, a power intrinsic in the instruments and the source material.
Various Artists
Mento Merengue Méringue
Original Music

It doesn't get any more rootsy, downhome funky than this! John Storm Robert's 1971 trip to Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica, recorder in hand in 1971 is augmented by another excursion to Grand Cayman in 1982, and the resulting 25 tracks compiled here are a feast of roots and rhythm. Accordions blaze, percussions swooshes over group voices with no pretensions of fame, only the energy and excitement of making real, local music for themselves and their friends. If I have a favorite group in this set, it would have to be Orchestre Jazz Coronado from Port Au Prince, with their strong Cuban influence, bass thumb piano and raucous percussion section. But then, I might also have to go with an old favorite, Caymanian fiddler Radley Gourzong, whose appearance on Original's Under The Coconut a decade back hooked me on the scratch band sound of the Caribbean. We get a healthy 7 tracks from him this time around!


Squashbox
Silex, France (via Harmonia Mundi in US)

Squashbox is an easy one for me to fall all over. Accordions, melodeons, concertinas: they are the very building blocks of my musical life, and this collection is teeming with those little squeezy reeds in a look at the concertina music of the Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho people of southern Africa from 1930 to 1965. How this little instrument that only arrived on the continent in the mid-1800s became one of the cornerstones of popular music here is anyone's guess. But it is an amazing sound, and as adapted to the local music, so unusual as to seem like it grew up there as part of the local culture. Here is a taste of a street music that eventually grew into the thundering township jive of the '80s. These are not only valuable historical documents, they are a roaring good set of songs and dances from any period.


Cafe Noir is a Texas band that manages to evoke the spirit of Django Rheinhardt, the flash of Dan Hicks and Co., and the breeziness of Poi Dog Pondering in the same breath. Windows To The Sea is American Gipsy music, another blender full of confusion whose whole is more solid than its ingredients. Violins, handclaps, and accordions mix with clarinets, voices and guitars in sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy ethnic dishes that are as American as pizza. There is lunacy abounding here, with surrealistic swirls of dischord melting into sweet romantic songs. While they get their inspiration from everywhere, Cafe Noir are another of the "great American bands from Austin" who seem to keep their window open, welcoming in the whole world's musical heritage.
"Feeding Frenzy." Explanation? Fast Forward composed a work as a menu for a dinner and he plays kitchen utensils. Per Blomquist is the waiter (literally, this is a live recording). Guy Klucesek plays accordion (the conventionalist in the pack!). Ikue Mori plays drum machines. Jim Conti gave the slide projections. (Where's the CD ROM version?) It's a twenty five minute meal, from soup to dessert, improvised according to the menu and around the meal service to the audience.
  • MARIA KALANIEMI
  • Green Linnet/ Olarin in Finland and Europe

    OK, ok... so I do have a few artists that I go on and on about. I can't help it. There is an exciting burst of creative genius going on in the European folk music scene, and it can't be over played. Maria Kalaniemi is one of those rare musical gems. She is an intense artist who knows what she wants out of her music and has not only the skill (formidable, in her case) but the creative energy to get it to happen. And she does it on an instrument much maligned and grossly underated, the full concert chromatic accordion. Her mastery is magical; she pumps, squeezes, caresses and coaxes every note, taking the grand "oom-pah" of the bellows and turning it into a breath of fire or a breeze of beauty. Starting from a Finnish folk musical base, she adds modern classical ideas, tango and pop without ever losing the root. Her ensemble is a powerhouse. Famed Finnish fiddlers Arto Jarvälä and Sven Ahlbäck carry some the melodic weight and pianist/arranger Timo Alakotila clearly has his influence. But ultimately this is the work of a solitary spirit, one dedicated to exploration of both instrument and theme. The real brilliance of this recording is that even though I have had the Finnish release of this album for almost 2 years, every time I play it it seems fresh and exhilarating. The US release will bring that feeling to a whole new crowd.


  • THOSE DARN ACCORDIONS!
  • Squeeze This!
  • Flying Fish OK. It's summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime and the living is miserable. The hell with a serious bid for world music Jackpot-ism. What I need as the temperature rises the moisture hangs in the New England air is a dumb dose of silliness. Take a can of frozen B-52s, add a tablespoon of Weird Al's tabasco for lovers, some Elvis Costello, a touch of The Go-Gos and one large ripe Welk. Let it sit for a week, then stir in at least a quart of Bellow's brand rot gut accordion liqueur. Stir with a red hot polka, never shake, never strain. Drink deep, squeezing the Welk over the rim of the glass every few sips. Voila! Eight accordions, a bass and a drum kit are all it takes to move the squeeze box into the last century in a bee-hive and tease filled mess of wheezing and wailing. Grand Funk Railroad deserves to be covered by this kind of band. So does Charlie Daniels. Hendrix might not find the humor in a sixty year old guy singing "Fire" to the sound of a bellow and reed band, but he's dead. He'll get over it. Little did E.C. know that the real meaning of "Pump It Up" would be revealed in 1994, nor did Louis Prima and Gene Krupa dream of Those Darn Accordions when they blew out "Sing, Sing, Sing" in the forties. This is sheer nutty genius, a one hit wonder that you'll probably come back to all summer, and well into the fall. Irresistible good fun, so, Squeeze This! and Everybody polka!!
  • GIOVANNI IMPARTO
  • Yoruba
  • LaStrada/Pentagono, Via Barnaba Tortolini 5, 00197 Rome, Italy

    GIOVANNI IMPARATO is an Italian percussionist with a wide ranging view of the rhythm of the world. While his newest album Yoruba has a clear influence from the drums off western Africa, he makes a pop driven acoutic and electronic blend that is international in scope but local in its vision. Keyboards form an interesting and creative background to acoustic guitar, accordion, violin and bass, all pushed along by Imparto's unique drumming. The vocalist he works with an an equally broad group, with intonations of Spain, Italy, Africa and pop coming through each song invoked by Nel Brano. Some of it is a little sweet, but most of Yoruba is rich, lustrous music with plenty of depth.



    The Bala Hounds

    Mixórdia

    Fivemonk

    This is the first I have heard of this Philly string band, but I will be sure to catch up. Good playing is reinforced by some clever arrangements and a global, if sometimes silly, perspective. Tossing off Russian, Cajun, forró, polkas and reels as if they were so many fish on the boat, they sometimes hit the dock, and sometimes you want to watch them sink back into the sea. Fortunately, by the end of the trip they manage to have a full net of good tunes. Banjo, accordion, bass, guitar and mandolin make some miles on "Patagonian Sundance," "Extraterrestrial Polka" and the inimitable "Warren The Worm." And who could resist a tune that claims to be "a musical interpretation of the North American Free Trade Agreement?"

    (Cliff Furnald)


  • DEN FULE
  • Lugumleik
  • Xource, PO 71, S-185 00 Vaxholm, Sweden

    It's what I am always searching for when someone says "world music," a blending of cultures and ideas that is unconcerned with genre, and totally concerned with music. Den Fule are a new Swedish band that includes members of two of Scandinavia's most important bands, Filarfolket (alsa, no more!) and Groupa (who have a new album out in 1996 after a long time without). Building on the adventurous folk fusion of these two groups, they are forging a new, more electric path through the north woods. Most of the songs are traditional; the delivery is anything but. The signature horns and fiddles are still there, but they have added a harder edge of electric guitars and kit drums, heavy bass licks and an overall jazz ethic to the mix. The end result is a deceptive, snaking music, that slithers up on an old hardangfiddle tune, and then hisses an electric drone, a funk groove or a searing blast of distortion. This is folk music with contemporary bite, international in sound and yet local in intention. This is a truly Swedish band, but unfettered by the map, unchained by the traduitions they love... Xource and it's sister label Resource are a new enterprise that brings together great music from many labels in Sweden, and includes releases and reissue from folk, pregressive rock and experimental bands like FILARFOKET, LARS HOLMER, HEDNINGARNA, SAMLA MAMMAS MANNA and JOHAN ZACHRISSON. Bringing all of these great recordings together under one roof will make them more acessible to an international market.


    Listen! MR. PETERS' BOOM AND CHIME

    Low tech, lo-fi recordings have always been one of my soft spots. When the latest release from Fire Ant Records (2009 Ashland Avenue, Charlotte, NC 280205) came, I naturally lept for it. MR. PETERS' BOOM AND CHIME play blistering scratch band music from Belize. Accordionist Peters and his band of banjo, electric guitar, drums (the boom and chime) congas and brake drum rattle and roll in a free-wheeling, unconcerned style that is just pure music and no (NO!) pretensions. Recorded live to DAT in Belize by Lew Herman, this is as rootsy and raw as it gets, with a good times groove that is irresistable.

    There is a second edition to all this, as well. In 1994, FireAnt released Haul Up Your Foot, You Fool, a CD (!) of more of the boom and chime of Mr. Peter's accordion.


    Songs The Swahili Sing

    Original Music

    While the music of Zanzibar and Tanzania known as tarabu has been recently available on CD collections, no set comes close to this, the 1983 release by Original Music. Here are some of the really perfect pieces, music that has roots in Arabic classical, Indian movie music, and if you listen closely, some African sounds as well. Piano accordions, fiddles, percussion, electric guitars, some amplified into distorted oblivion are merge into a sublime sound. But the singers are thing, and their Swahili poetry will make any wedding goer swoon. Male and female vocals are all swoon and swish, and they are unique and superb.

    This is a CD that proves the wonder and worth of the new era brought on by CDs and digital media. Here is a recording released originally in 1983, but because of advances in the medium, this is virtually a new release. While they have deleted a few of the tracks form the LP version (tracks that have since appeared on some Globestyle CDs), they have added some wonderful early tarab tracks and some non-professional social songs. This album defined Original Music's dedication to local music, and this reissue confirms it.


    THE TEREM QUARTET

    Classical

    Realworld/Caroline, 114 West 26th St., New York, NY 10001 212.989.2929

    Three strings and an accordionhardly seems like the ensemble of choice formusic by Schubert or Mozart, but Terem makes it seem natural, if a touch zany. Unlike their previous album, the material here is all from the classics of European and Russian musical literature, and they stick pretty close to the originals. But when you are doing these orchestral pieces on a bass balalika, two domra (three-stringed lute type instrument) and a squeeze-box, there are bound to be anomalies, inventions and surprises. This is an inspired quartet, and although I prefer their excursions into more adventurous turf, Classical is still always energetic, sometimes funny and certainly idiosyncratic.


    ÅLE MöLLER/ LENA WILLEMARK
    Nordan
    (ECM)

    This duo has done it all, as diving forces to the 70s folk revival in Europe, as experimenters in folk fusion and jazz, as solo artists and as members of important bands in Sweden like the now defunct Filarfolket and their current trio Frifot with fiddler/bagpiper Per Gudmundson. Nordan is a fullfilment of the promise in making folk music into new, contemporary art. Jazz and new-world musicians like saxist Jonas Knutsson and percussionist Tina Johansson and folk luminaries like Gudmundsson on fiddle and Mats Edén on hardangfiddle and kantele, join vocalist and violinist Willemark and multi-talented instrumentalist Möller (bagpipes, mandola, cow's horn, cimbalom, flutes and accordion!) to explore the possibilities. They are many and they are wonderful. Uninhibited by tradition and unfettered by electronics, this ensemble makes music that is as at home in pop music circles as around a campfire. The sound is so ancient it's new again, and the musicianship is as good as ir gets. Palle Danielsson's upright bass finds swing in the ancient melodies, Willemark's vocals absolutely soar, and Möller's infamous trad/arr abilities and his original tunes reach deep into the soul. Every cut is essential, but for you track surfers, try the dramatic "Knut Hauling," the a capella "Trilo" or the original suite of faux-shepards tunes, "Vallsvit."


    NORRLÅTAR

    Ravn

    Xource, PO 271, S-185 23 Vaxholm, Sweden/ fax:46-85-413-0060)

    This Swedish band has been making cutting-edge new acoustic music for many years in Sweden, and here is their latest and most coherent outing to date. Taking the disparate roots of their own home, adding the Arabic countries, a little from eastern Europe and a certain bad-attitude charm, they have pulled together ten near-jazz instrumentals in an adventurous variety of tones. Accordions, reeds and fiddles take the melodic lead, but it is the percussion and electric bass that really make this recording stand out, lending it a tension and barrel-ahead energy. Judicious and clever use of samplers and keyboards also lend a touch of the surreal, but no more than the drones of the fiddles and squeeze boxes.


    NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN

    The Last Prophet

    Realworld/Caroline

    It would be completely fatuous to "review" this album. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a modern master of the Pakistani art of qawwali music. For decades he has brought this music to the world, and absorbed the rest of the world's music, occasionally taking a shot at pop fusion, but through it all continuing to expand the ancient tradition of his mystical music. The Last Prophet is simply a continuation of that tradition, unlocking some of qawwal's mysteries and creating new ones. Unlike many recent Real World albums, there is no cross-over here, none of that homogenizing meant to make the music acessible. Voices, accordions, percussion, and the passionate expression of Nusrat bring the arcane sounds of Sufism to a wider audience without bowing to the commercial possibilities.


    Nypykät

    Elämä On Sumfaraa (Poko Records/Finland)

    Kanuunaralli (Poko Records/Finland)

    They call themselves "the kings of polkka" but that's like calling the Pogues the kings of ceili. This is a ten member rock and roll band with a bad attitude, a sense of humor, and a love of the old music of their country that comes out as sometimes respectful, but more often as sly parody or outright badgering. Electric guitars, fiddles, bass, drums and of course, accordion seem standard enough. On Elämä On Sumfaraa they add a bit more electronic keyboard that gives some of their best tunes, like the thumping, psuedo-reggae/polkka fusion "Anna Armoa" a pleasant, cheesy feeling. It also makes a spit-fire minute and a half send up of "My Sharona" come to life. Kanuunaralli definately has the edge for energy, with a slightly folkier feel that seems better suited to their particular brand of humor. The arrangements are a paste-up of changing rhythms and manaical turn-arounds. Nothing deep or intense here, Nypykät are high-octane folk pop fun.

    (POKO Music, Box 483, 33101 Tampere, Finland/ fax: 931-133-732)


    If you'd like to comment on these reviews, please drop a note to me,cliff@rootsworld.com


    More Free Reed information and links

    Search RootsWorld

    return to rootsworld


    RootsWorld copyright 1996,1997, 1998 Cliff Furnald