Quadro Nuevo: Mocca Flor (2005)
Exhaustingly Orientalist, the Austrian quartet Quadro Nuevo tries to reconstruct the fantasy Middle East of Delacroix and the fantasy Europe of An American in Paris but lacks the inspiration of both, and ends up looking like a boring artifact from a racist era. Multicultural to a fault, it packs in tangos, Neapolitan ballads, early swing tunes, Greek and German folk songs, and European café jazz. If these players had chops and bent the influences to their own artistic ends, they could get around their exoticizing of the music. As it stands they resort to condescending imitations for each tune and hope the addition of "native instrumentation, like a willow rod, psalter (a Middle Eastern zither), and gusle (Serbian stringed instrument) distract from the thudding monotony. It doesn't.
"El Choclo is an Argentinean tango that suffers from a lifeless bass ostinato and a fey sax line that eventually settles into a smooth jazz version of Piazzola. "Sultana begins with a patronizing snake-charmer sax theme and devolves into a tune that could accompany the tender moments to The Scorpion King. "Mocca Swing offers some life with a jaunty guitar intro and clarinet needling that shows a faint hint of Django's rhythm. But it continues, alas, with repetition upon repetition of clarinet arpeggios and accordion runs that lose their welcome halfway through. "Giovanni Tranquillo begins with the ticking of a clock, a bossa nova beat on chimes and guitar, and a moony sax melody backed by accordion squawks. It sounds like Jobim on Quaaludes. And so forth.
The effort can be summed up by the liner notes, where we are told Quadro Nuevo carry us away "into a world of fluttering turbans, old taverns and of the passionate tango. In short, they prefer a world of childish fantasies to the one we live in.
Track Listing: Miserlou; 'O Sarracino; El Choclo; Sultana; Mocca Swing; Giovanni Tranquillo; Penta; Quiereme; Bei Mir Bist Du Scheen; Jakob Elija; Tango Gosselin; Fiera Triste; Cafe Europa; El Sospiro Del Moro
Personnel: Mulo Francel: saxophones, clarinets, mandolin; Robert Wolf: guitar; Andreas Hinterseher: accordion, vibrandoneon, bandoneon; D.D. Lowka: bass, percussion.