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Songs for Cello

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Album Review

Calling Rufus Cappadocia a cello player is like calling Willie Mays an outfielder. Cappadocia started playing when he was only three, but was always dissatisfied with the instrument's range. When he discovered the blues, he set off on a musical journey that led to American roots music, Middle Eastern drones, Balkan rhythmic complexity, jazzy improvisation, Pygmy polyphony, the fire of flamenco and much more. Today he plays a self-designed five-string electric cello that allows him the range he desires, while retaining the instrument's dark acoustic feel. He plays with the Vodou Jazz Ensemble and is a founder of avant-folkies Bethany & Rufus, but Songs for Cello is his first solo outing. Originally put out on his own label, the disc was reissued nationally by Velour music in 2008. The "songs" here span the globe and show off Cappadocia's understated virtuosity. "Prayer" has hints of North Indian classical music, and not only because of the tanbura's drone. Cappadocia's improvisations combine classical sonorities with the improvisational flights of a midnight raga. On "Melodie" he plucks the strings of the cello and delivers an oud-like Middle Eastern groove accompanied by a rhythm he produces by pounding the cello like a drum. "Lament" sounds like Gypsy music; lush, sorrowful, and deeply moving with melody lines marked by soulful, fluttering arpeggios. "Transformation" starts like a piece of new music with fluttering layers of rhythm and melody laid over each other; halfway through he attacks the instrument like it's a flamenco guitar adding fiery rhythmic accents by hitting the body of the instrument. "Element" uses bowed cello and sounds like a combination of gypsy lament and new music dissonance, it moves from lyrical passages to abrasive cello abuse, then back to dark rumbling melodic passages. "Forgiveness" is a late-night smoky blues marked by bent notes and percussive, piano-like tones; Mingus would be proud of him. With this album, Cappadocia destroys any preconceptions you may have about cello as a classical instrument. He plays by his own rules and envelopes you with his own unique sound and style. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Songs for Cello, Rufus Cappadocia
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