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Guy Klucevsek: Dancing on the Volcano

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With good reason, Guy Klucevsek is considered one of the preeminent accordionists in new music. Firmly grounded in tradition, he can play all the styles associated with the instrument with a dizzying facility: fleet melodic runs, droning harmonic accompaniment and solid rhythmic support. No mere technician, Klucevsek's also a dynamic improviser—a quick-witted, deep listener, able to find and express a tune's essence. Dancing on the Volcano collects music commissioned for dance and silent film, in addition to other originals, and highlights his talents as both composer and performer, music that nods to tradition as it forges a contemporary path for the accordion, somewhat familiar yet totally distinct.

"March of the Prognosticators" commences with a charming unison between the leader's accordion and Steve Nelson's clarinet over the subtle waltz-like rhythm of bassist Pete Donovan and drummer John Hollenbeck. The pace quickens on the title track as the cascading accordion melody becomes elongated and more complex, unfurling over a Balkan/Roma feel that propels guest second accordionist Alex Meixner's jovial jaunt. Elson and Klucevsek beautifully render a unison passage for the swaying "Grooved Shoulders," the clarinet improv imparting a Klezmer flavor, before the leader's sensitive light-touched run.

The subdued shuffle of "Night Traveler" offers solo space for the quartet: clarinet and accordion take turns before trading phrases to set up Donovan's bluesy run and, after a slick syncopated bridge, Hollenbeck's understated fills play off the feel. With percussive flair, he enlivens the "oom-pah" polka of "The Man with the Rubber Head," a tune that reaches a cartoon-like hyperkinetic conclusion. The carnival-esque "Meet Me on the Midway" showcases Meixner's gliding while "The Return of Lasse" finds the leader embellishing the up-tempo Gypsy romp, accented by Hollenbeck's cymbal splashes.

There's a whisper of tarantella on "Soft Landing," while a touch of tango surfaces on "Any Day," Elson deftly exploiting the upper register of his bass clarinet with contrasting blats from the low end. Klucevsek shows his piano skills on the slowly unfolding minimalism of "Closer by Far," a duet with Elson on soprano saxophone. Its tidal movement has an Oriental mode and draws to a gentle conclusion. Veering from the uproarious to the elegant, this album exudes Klucevsek's sly wit and sincere joy in playing.

Track Listing: March of the Lazy Prognosticators; Dancing on the Volcano; Amazing Graves (part 1, Intro); Amazing Graves (part 2, Waltz); Grooved Shoulders; Bone Dance; Night Traveler (after Mary Oliver); The Man with the Rubber Head (A Waltz); Meet Me on the Midway; Soft Landing; The Return of Lasse; Any Day Now; Closer By Far.

Personnel: Guy Klucevsek: accordion, bass accordion, piano; Pete Donovan: bass; Steve Elson: clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone; John Hollenbeck: drums, percussion; Alex Meixner: accordion (2, 8, 9).

Title: Dancing on the Volcano | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Tzadik


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