Photo: Cliff Furnald

A series of reviews of albums from this master of new music.
You can also read Guy's Accordion Misdemeanors at The Classical Free Reed.

Stolen Memories
Tzadik Records, NY

In a return performance with The Bantam Orchestra (Sara Parkins, violin; Margaret Parkins, cello and voice; Achim Tang, bass), composer/accordionist Klucevsek again breaches the envelope by not only stretching the boundaries of the instrument (remarkably enough, this is now becoming almost a commonplace event in the new music world) but is becoming ever more important as a composer of a new music that loves melody and rhythm and rarely understands the term "minimal." In keeping with the Tzadik label's unwritten credo, there is a certain flavor of middle eastern, Judaic musical style, but this is no avant-garde klezmorim we hear on Stolen Memories. He does dramatic justice to the tradition on the opening track, "Rumbling," which roars and rolls like the Hudson River it was written near and then breaks into a dance piece in a near-klezmer style. Other pieces from his "Wave Hill" cycle, written for a dance troupe, follow suit, while the title piece and the closing number of the suite, "Skating on Thin Air," are classic pieces of Klucevsek's romanticism and examples of his innovative use of the sound of the instruments. Stolen Memories also includes one of his songs (sadly missing from the last outing), this one a paean to pastry and landfills called "Donut Ask, Donut Tell." Whether it's romantic simplicity, high technicality or even broad humor, Klucevsek always seems to find a way to bring to his audience a highly personal view of the world, one that includes both thoughtful balance and whimsy.

Citrus, My Love
RecRec, Postfach, 8040, Zurich phone:41.1.405.67.17 fax:41.1.405.67.18

The man best known lately for his Polkas From The Fringe returns to deeper, darker, more romantic music with Citrus, My Love, a cycle of original compositions for accordion and strings. Klucevsek is a rare musician who has mastered both understatement and over-abundance and the truly remarkable ability to bring these things together. I've seen his work compared to Satie, Copeland, Bartok, Glass and Zappa, sometimes in overlapping phrases, and each has its place. He is more than these simple comparisons, though. His music has an acid modernism, a glassy quality that passes morning light in distorted ways. Citrus more than other recent works is stark and undecorated, moving from bare floors of solo accordion to empty rooms that explode at the sound of the strings. There is a formal tension tempered by simplicity that evokes an early American style, a poor but formal Appalachian drawing room. Klucevsek has never ceased to amaze me with his modest approach to complex themes. Listen.


Look out! It's a giant rock falling into a chasm! It's a coyote on rocket powered wheels, tearing up a railroad track! BRRRACK! ZING!! It's an accordion playing John Zorn's soundtrack to a "Road Runner" cartoon, complete with a tango, a waltz, a Mexican serenade and a number of simulated disasters. Guy Klucevsek strikes again. New York's master of the squeeze has two new recordings out featuring compositions from the fringe of new music. Manhattan Cascade (C.R.I.) is a series of ten solo (almost) performances for the king of instruments, the accordion. His ability to pull emotion, pathos, beauty and, of course, humor out of this instrument is unique; his choice of material even more so. Lois V. Vierk composed the title track, an epic twenty minutes that builds to four accordions, assembling an picture that is sometimes dark, sometimes romantic. Four of the pieces here are from his commissioned series, "Polka From The Fringe." Christian Marclay's "Ping Pong Polka" plays on musical stereotypes, with Marclay's turntables spinning a wild assortment of cliches while G.K. improvises around them, in homage to those old stereo test records that would "ping pong" the sounds to prove the value of stereo sound. Aaron Jay Kernis' "Phantom Polka" uses the same soundtrack aesthetic as the Road Runner piece, building a visual image therough the music, and offering Klucevsek an opportunity to really stretch the instrument to the max.


Polka Dots and Laser Beams (EVA/Japan) by Guy Klucevsek and The Ain't Nothing But A Polka Band is another thing entirely. John King on electric and slide guitars, David Hofstra on tuba and bass, and Bill Ruyle on the drums are joined by a cast of horns, marimbas, strings and "trombone propelled electronics." This is the continuing saga of Polka From The Fringe, and it pushes it about as far as it can go. With the humor of Brave Combo, ace virtuosity and a loving nod to the old mid-west dance hall bands, Klucevsek and company belt out an awe-inspiring barrage of power polka that will amaze and enlighten. Polynesian cruise polka erupts on "From Here To Paternity." Gershwin and Elvis co-exist on "The Grass It Is Blue." Robin Holcomb contributed a pastorale "Winnemucca Polka," a European romance with a touch of klezmer. A brief bit of Ellington surfaces on "Klop" and takes on an Alpine air. Bobby Previte's "Nova Scotia Polka" relies on a jazzy/country violins for its release. "Polking Around" is my personal favorite, mixing accordion, violin and marimba in an understated piece that plays on the essential, breathy quality of the instrument.

On these recordings, and his earlier Flying Vegetables Of The Apocalypse, Guy Klucevsek proves that it's not the instrument, but the player, the composer and the ear of the listener that matter most. Through his open exploration of both technique and the deconstruction of that technique, he pays homage to, and challenges the very cliches he admires.

C.R.I., 73 Spring St., New York, New York 10012-5800

Polka Dots and Laser Beams available through Wayside

Transylvanian Softwear
Starkland (

There are certain artists that I just can't ever get too much of, and Guy Klucevsek is one of them. I have encountered this musician composer in numerous live performances, and on a series of recordings that have always pleased and amazed me. So welcome him back again, in a solo setting. As a composer, there are few left in America that are willing to be as adventurous and still as tender as Klucevsek. With inspirations from Balkan, Hungarian, and South American composers he continues to write music that exudes a warm romanticism, a daring sense of rhythm and an indelible wit. As a performer, he is still surprising critics and audiences with his skill on an instrument more commonly relegated to slapstick and kitsch. But in his hands, the accordion is once again proven to be the king of instruments, a box that deserves it place in so many types of music from so many cultures. He pays homage to Bartok and Piazzolla, the folk music of Europe and the downtown hard jazz of New York, amply spiced with chaos (a new version of John Zorn's insane composition, "Road Runner") and humor (Fred Frith's "Disinformation Polka"). I hate to be so effusive, but virtually everything he touches turns into something golden. If you ever get a crack at hearing him live, sell whatever it takes to raise the funds and get there!

Guy Klucevsek can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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