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Album Review

Now here's an oddity, an album of compositions for and by a pair of accordionists; and, with the exception of a forte-piano here and a bayan or melodica there, accordions are all you hear. Guy Klucevsek is the man who single-handedly brought the accordion into the jazz underground. He is also a composer of note having his works performed by many ensembles around the world, including the Kronos Quartet and the Arditti String Quartet. Alan Bern is well-known as the musical director of Brave Old World, one of the leading klezmer ensembles in the world, and a virtuoso classical and jazz pianist as well as an extraordinary accordionist. This collection of works, all of which were composed by the two performers, is a compelling entry in the already prestigious Winter & Winter catalogue. The sheer range of musical styles addressed here is handled with grace and aplomb. While these men compose and play with great virtuosity, it's never to reveal their individual skills, but to serve the music they compose. Whether it's klezmer, gypsy folk music, swinging jazz, classical music, madcap cartoon melodies, or sheer pastoral balladry that explores the tonalities of the instruments employed as "voices" in song, the restraint and elegance are ever present. The emotional quality of many of these pieces is of profound depth and dimension. Nowhere is this more evident than on Alan Bern's "Starting Over," a nine-plus minute exploration of melodic invention placed against a mournful harmonic backdrop. Woven together, they create a landscape of tears, not so much from sadness as beauty. The bayan is slipped into the mix about midway through; the accordions sing to each other and colors pour from the sound and engage the listener at heart level. The following track, "Mr. Glime-Glide," is by Klucevsek. It's a standard polka in terms of its time signature, but its odd timbres and melody recall something else, from somewhere else. The track's architecture isn't created to move so much from one page of notation to another, as to evoke as wide a range of emotions as possible from the same set of musical parameters. Here folk song, wedding music, and classical music all engage one another in a polka of memory. The nest piece, a stomping classical dance called "Mug Shots," is brief but shot through with Wagnerian themes juxtaposed against gypsy melody and Yiddish folk song. In all, there is not a dull note on this fine album. These men, who came together for the first time in order to record, have not only provided us a new manner in which to hear their chosen instruments in a variety of compositional situations, but to experience anew the aesthetic possibilities inherent in first time collaborations.


Born: February 26, 1947

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Accomplished accordionist and composer Guy Klucevsek has stunned audiences around the world with his mastery of the unwieldy instrument in jazz- and world-influenced avant-garde concerts. Included on compilations from Tzadik's Burt Bacharach tribute to the more mainstream Ellipsis Arts release Planet Squeezebox, Klucevsek has also led over 15 of his own recordings for labels including Tzadik, Winter & Winter, Ewa, and CRI. He has composed extensively for modern dance, and was awarded a BESSIE...
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Accordance, Guy Klucevsek
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