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David Bixler and Arturo O'Farrill: The Auction Project

Dan Bilawsky By

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Cuba and Ireland are worlds apart in virtually every way, but the universal language of music—is often culture-blind. The Auction Project was born out of a marriage between two longtime musical partners—saxophonist David Bixler and pianist Arturo O'Farrill—and a marriage between, well...two married people. Bixler and O'Farrill, longtime band mates and label mates on Zoho Music, came together in 2006 to play a fundraiser at Bixler's daughter's school. Around the same time, Bixler's wife, Juilliard trained violinist Heather Martin Bixler, was exploring traditional Irish fiddle music. With Afro-Cuban sounds and Celtic creations being practiced under one roof—literally—Bixler gave birth to the idea of an Afro-Celtic jazz project.

The material, like the concept itself, is a mixture of diverse originals from Bixler and reworked renditions of traditional Irish songs. The latter pieces range from faithful, like the solo violin work on "Heather's Waltz Part 1: O'Farrill's Welcome To Limerick/The Arragh Mountains," to expansive. "She Moves Through The Fair" falls into both categories, with Martin Bixler's violin beautifully crafting the melody at the outset. As things progress, the exchanges between both Bixlers, and the shifty bass line that lurks beneath them, help lend this arrangement its identity. The performance, like many pieces here, juxtaposes slightly dark and imposing bass lines against semi-serene violin melodies on top.

Bixler's originals are easily distinguishable from the Celtic fare, and each one stands out for a different reason. "June 26th, 07" has a connection to the blues, but it's painted off of a broader harmonic palette. A shifting feel from one Latin groove to another (in bars nine and ten of the 12-bar arc) further obscures this aural relationship and, while everybody delivers strong performances, bassist Carlo Derosa's frisky finger work during his solo is the highlight. Percussionist Roland Guerrero adds finishing touches to "Green Target," and O'Farrill's ascending laddered phrases and descending waterfall of notes are brilliant moments in a stand-out solo.

"Heptagonesque" combines Afro-Cuban sounds and Middle Eastern melodic tendencies, briefly shifting to a relaxed swing feel, while Bixler works off drummer Vince Cherico's tom-dominated accompaniment on the slow burning "Worth Dying For." Anybody crying this lot should have no problem selling The Auction Project.

Track Listing: June 26th, 07; The Chicken Went To Scotland; Green Target; She Moves Through The Fair; Banish Misfortune; Heather's Waltz Part 1: O'Farrill's Welcome To Limerick/The Arragh Mountains; Heather's Waltz Part 2: Gan Aithne; Heptagonesque; Worth Dying For; Green Target, Take 2.

Personnel: David Bixler: alto saxophone; Arturo O'Farrill: piano; Heather Martin Bixler: violin; Carlo Derosa: bass; Vince Cherico: drums; Roland Guerrero: percussion.

Title: The Auction Project | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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