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Dromedary Quartet: Dromedary Quartet

Budd Kopman By

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The Dromedary Quartet expands the Dromedary Duo—a partnership between string players Rob McMaken (mandolin, cumbus, guitars) and Andrew Reissinger (charango, guitars)—with the addition of bassist Neal Fountain and drummer Jeff Reilly. McMaken and Reilly are also members of Kenosha Kid, which produced the genre-crushing Projector.

If Kenosha Kid was pure fun to listen to, Dan Nettles' masterful arrangements on the idiosyncratic Quartet make this record just as enjoyable, as do several other reasons: the pure joy of the playing, the combination of many different world musics, the high level of musicianship, and the record's sheer effortless audacity. Call it jazz—why not?

Now a percussion-supported string band (with a floating bottom), Dromedary's front line plays music deriving from various traditions: Appalachian, Andean, Turkish (the cumbus is a Turkish instrument), Andalusian, Portuguese and Jewish folk music. However, they have added a jazz attitude to those kernels, and so much energy that it takes but seconds to win you over. To quote one fan's opinion from the press sheet, "It's 21st century ethnic party music—imagine Medeski, Martin & Wood infiltrated by a band of gypsies."

That is as good a description as any, but there is something uniquely part of American jazz at work here as well. The band's interplay is extremely tight, and the arrangements are full of drama. An enormous amount of energy is on one hand tightly controlled and on the other free to roam. The fact that folk music tends to be harmonically static is artfully disguised by the arrangements and the varying instrumentation both within and between tracks.

While the record can be listened to as "party music," the musicians are very serious and concentrated on their task. The authenticity of the roots of their music is never in question. The emotions they explore on this very live studio recording range from euphoria to pathos, from mystery to wide-eyed innocence, communicated directly from their hearts to yours. Quartet is enjoyable on many levels, and highly recommended.

Track Listing: El Faro; 3 On 7; Hills Of Potosi; Childhood; First Song; Indozuelan Pattycake; Backroads; Blues For High Water.

Personnel: Andrew Reissiger: charango, guitars; Rob McMacken: mandolin, cumbus, guitars; Neal Fountain: bass; Jeff Reilly: drums.

Title: Dromedary Quartet | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Self Produced

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