Animals & Cannibals – 3 Leg Torso – Meester Records [TrackList follows] *****:
Dance of the Three Legged Elephants – Matthew Barley, cello; Julian Joseph, piano – Signum Classics SIGCD171 [TrackList follows] (Distr. by Naxos) *****:
For their fifth album, the thoroughly eclectic (though with a predalence of music from the Balkans area) quintet with guests give us ten tracks that seem to be intended to get listeners dancing. The feeling is more ethnically directed than big band swing. There are some gypsy tunes, such as the familiar “Csardas,”, some smooth jazz, a Russian song, some Middle Eastern sounds, and so forth—all instrumental. The “Cow in my Volga” tune came from the band’s visit to Eastern Europe, where they saw a farmer taking his cow somewhere in his little Volga car.
The two leaders of the Portland-based band are violinist/pianist Bela R. Balogh and accordionist Courtney Von Drehle. Several of the tunes are by Von Drehle, and his accordion solo on “According to Chagall” is just gorgeous. Drums, vibes or xylophone, and doublebass round out the band. The four guest musicians add in more vibes, percussion, tuba, French horn and doumbek. The fold-out album is decorated with lots of artwork in a Where the Wild Things Are style.
Akiko Yano, Czardas, The Life and Times and Good Deeds of St. Penguin, Toothless Cannibal, Driving along with My Cow in My Volga, According to Chagall, Bus Stop to Oblivion, Frailach #1, Autumn, The Last Dream
The similar titles as well as the off-the-beaten-path music selections caused me to combine these two CD reviews. This time it’s only a duo of cello and piano, the cellist coming from a classical background originally but having branched into world music and electronics. The pianist also started out in the classical world but is a noted jazz pianist and composer now. He’s even written and toured with a jazz opera. Although their album has music by Jaco Pastorius, Antonio Carlo Jobim, Ravel and John McLaughlin, the other six of the ten tracks are by either one of the performers or credited to both together. Some of the music is composed, and some improvised in the jazz fashion. Both players strive to bring together jazz and classical, and feel that boundaries should not exist.
Many of the tunes follow the usual modern jazz treatment of stating the main tune directly, and then taking off on variations upon it which feature one or the other instrument in the main role but switching back and forth. The longest track on the CD is the title tune by pianist Joseph, running nearly 12 minutes. It is a witty ¾-time opus in 12-bar form and the piano contributes some great jazz lines. I was reminded of Stravinsky’s witty dance that he wrote for the Ringling Bros. elephants, except that this one doesn’t quote Schubert’s Marche Militare and is less classically-influenced.
Improvisation #7, (Used to a be a) Cha Cha, Improvisation #3, Castellain Sunshine, Sabia, Dance of the Three Legged Elephants, Piece en Forme de Habanera, Miles Beyond, Vika, Improvisation #2.