Chris Cheek / Victor Prieto: Rollo Coaster (2010)
Chances are you have never heard the accordion played the way Victor Prieto plays it. Indeed, much like Toots Thielemans established the harmonica in the jazz lore huffing and puffing bop lines through his teeth, Prieto breaks the glass ceiling hovering above the crown of Cyrillus Demian's patented invention, squeezing improvised airs with a technical assurance that deserves more widespread recognition.
Long known for catapulting the French valse musette, the Bohemian polka, the French-Canadian reels, and the festive music of the Cajuns to a world stage, the instrument's acceptance into the jazz world has come rather slowly. Sure there have been other accordionists that have mined the genre before Richard Galliano, Antonello Salis, Mat Mathews, Gianni Coscia, Art Van Damme and, lately, Frode Haltlibut aside from this honorable horde, the Hohners and Excelsiors have been found howling under quite a different moon.
Comes Prieto, with his refreshing, tango-meets-jazz-meets classical music bouquet; a cornucopia filled with earthly tones picked from the best splashed accords by the hands of a crafty artist. Add a premier weaver of melodies in soprano saxophonist Chris Cheek and the end result comes as engaging as a nightingale's courting chant. Together they make music that, despite claiming a strong foothold in the tango tradition, whistles through a wide range of stylistic influences. Their chanced meeting happened in the ensemble of top tango-jazz authority Emilio Solla.
The album opens with Hermeto Pascoal's "BeBe," an arrangement which might be described as a mix between Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'n You" and a feverish Brazilian dance. Cheek's "Coo" follows. Taking turns at lashing out gripping yet rather succinct solos, the pair then segues into "Rollo Coaster," a relaxed piece in 7/4.
Things take a drastically different route as Prieto intones the church organ-like introduction to the confessional "Shelter." A somewhat odd turn of event in the program's unfolding, the change in mood is a surprise, feeling more like a concert of J.S.Bach's sacred music. Thought not a disagreeable move at all, the ploy nevertheless sharply departs from the mood the musicians have set so far. The feeling resurfaces halfway through "Papa Pin" before vacating the floor for the dancing "Rosa."
Rollo Coaster is a stylistically diversified effort; one which, on the different fronts inside which it maneuvers, breaks many barriers. Who knew the accordion could sound so intriguing?
Track Listing: Bebe; Coo; Rollo Coaster; Six Note Samba; Shelter; Chatting With Chris; Papa Pin; Rosa; Rio; Los Recuerdos; Improv I; Improv II; Improv III; Memories.
Personnel: Chris Cheek: soprano saxophone; Victor Prieto: accordion