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Rufus Cappadocia: Songs for Cello

Greg Camphire By

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Canadian-bred, New York-based cellist and composer Rufus Cappadocia is a world music traveler, having studied and performed in a variety of traditions—from American blues, folk and jazz to Spanish flamenco, Haitian voodoo drumming and various styles from the Balkans, the Middle East and India. Citing saxophonist John Coltrane and guitarists Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King as formative influences, and playing a self-designed, five-string electric instrument, Cappadocia whips up a hypnotic blend of sounds with Songs For Cello, his debut solo release.

The cellist's custom-built axe and wide-ranging approach give the recording unusual sonic properties. At times, the listener may think he's hearing an upright or electric bass, due to the fifth string's low-end resonance. At other moments, Cappadocia's percussive attack and electric distortion have the flavor of an African likembe (thumb piano), especially in the context of the 6/8-meter vamp on "Transformation." Indeed, melody is abandoned completely for sections of these workouts, as Cappadocia indulges in sophisticated rhythmic tapping that treats the cello as a drum, creating effects not unlike the artists found on the Congotronics (Crammed Discs, 2006) series of recordings.

Equally interesting is Cappadocia's approach to Eastern traditions of ecstatic trance music, which crop up in the use of Arabic and Indian scales on "Prayer" and "Lament." The former tune is played against the backdrop of the tamboura, the signature drone instrument used in the Indian Classical tradition, lending authenticity to Cappadocia's investigations into exotic modes.

Using a wide range of techniques, Cappadocia develops long, apparently improvised lines with the lush execution of his classically-influenced, bowed playing on "Element," but also plucks out dextrous, guitar-like melodies full of harmonic nuance and warm blues feeling on "Forgiveness."

If Cappadocia has a precedent for adapting solo cello to a jazz-inspired improvisational context, it may be the great yet overlooked Adbul Wadud's By Myself (Bishara, 1977). But Cappadocia's globe-trotting style offers a more expansive, even psychedelic, experience that ultimately makes comparisons moot, and makes him one to watch for where his musical travels take him next.


Track Listing: Prayer; Melodie; Lament; Transformation; Forgiveness; Element; Transformation (video version).

Personnel: Rufus Cappadocia: five-string electric cello.

Title: Songs for Cello | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Velour Music

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