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FolkClub Ethnosuoni ([email protected])

One of the hazards of mixing some folk instruments with Western orchestral instruments is that folk instruments are rarely tuned according to Western equal temperament. Tunings differ from culture to culture and often from instrument to instrument. While this makes for a pungent spiciness when the instruments are heard on their own or with like tone colors, it often makes for grating, out of character dissonances when combined with equal-tempered instruments. This is the problem with this release.

Epinfrai is an indisputably talented quartet of musicians who do some wonderfully jazzy, out-of-the-box things. Unfortunately, they put their focus on the piffero, an ancient Italian double-reed instrument. By itself, Marco Domenichetti's playing would be a thing of wonder. He shows great technique and flexibility on the raucous, nasal instrument. His band-mates, Daniele Bicego on msa, French horn, and low whistle; Alberto Graziani on guitar; and Paolo Malusardi on piano play with a graceful flow and intelligent use of harmonies. The sound that the four make together, however, often gives the effect of being caught between two vastly disparate acts at an outdoor music festival. Both sides of the fence end up diminished rather than enhanced. When the piffero tries to shoehorn itself into functional Western harmonies, as on the facile jazz waltz "Sorgente dei Nus," it ends up just sounding wrong.

Much of what Epinfrai does is of an experimental nature, "free from result mania and the need for strict definition," as Emanuela Garampelli writes in the liner notes. Ironically, the strongest tracks are the ones that present the piffero in a more traditional light. The dronier, driftier, folkier tunes, such as "Perigurdino" or "Alessandrina in La" that depend less on functional harmony are quite haunting. Domenichetti occasionally gets in some Coltrane-like licks, as on "Bela Nva," and sometimes those work, too.

The musicians in Epinfrai show great promise. Most of Cercando, however, sounds like an experiment gone slightly awry. - Peggy Latkovich

This CD is available by special order from cdRoots

Song: "Allessandrina" by Epinfrai
©2001 FolkClub Ethnosuoni, used by permission

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