Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Pensive Rustic Cinematics from Sagapool

Sagapool hail from Montreal. They play tunefully esoteric, mostly minor-key instrumentals that would make a good soundtrack to a David Cronenberg film somewhere in the woods north of Quebec City. Their new album features Luizio Altobelli’s accordion, Guillaume Bourque’s clarinet, Alexis Dumais’ piano, Zoe Dumais’ violin, Dany Nicolas’ acoustic guitar and Marton Maderspach’s lithe, subtle drums as the main instruments, although they also use banjo, bass, alto sax, mandolin, electric piano, sandpaper and “whispering.” Gypsy music is an obvious influence, and there’s a little of that here, but they also touch on classical, jazz and various folk styles. Some of their stuff reminds of eclectic San Francisco group Pickpocket Ensemble. Although not a theme and variations per se, the album works best taken as a single integral work, as if actually intended to be a movie soundtrack. The tunes are catchy and will linger in your head long after the sun goes down for good.

The opening cut is set in a Montreal park, a slightly aching accordion melody that builds to a motorway anthem as the drums rumble along, muffled against swooshing ambience. They follow that with Coeur D’Aiguille (Eye of the Needle), a wistful clarinet waltz with glockenspiel and ambient accordion. Le Vent Des Iles (Island Breeze) is another waltz, this one more pensive and featuring the piano. It rises to a sailing clarinet solo and then a romp through a majestic swirl of arpeggios in the style of 70s art-rock bands like Genesis. From its staccato piano intro to its tense violin/accordion melody, Le Fil Boreal (Edge of the Northern Lights) sounds like it’s about to explode into a big anthem but never quite gets there. La Tristesse De L’Ampleur (Sad Expanse) is a rather plaintive folk/jazz guitar tune that shifts between tricky and funky, and another moody waltz, clarinet soaring brightly upward.

The two tracks here where the grey-sky atmosphere lifts are Marcel, a jaunty, carefree dixieland-flavored number, and the amusing closing cut, Mon Cousin Joue Du Synthe (My Cousin Plays Synth), a dark minor-key theme bookending some unexpectedly silly, campy 80s new wave tropes. There’s also a brooding neoromantic piano waltz with Erik Satie echoes; another violin tune that shifts between waltz time and trickier rhythms; and the vividly crescendoing De Cordes et De Bois (Strings and Wood), which matter-of-factly builds until it lifts off and becomes an action movie theme – and then reprises an earlier melody. Who is the audience for this? Montreal bartenders on the day shift; northern New England shopkeepers who aspire to be classier than Walmart; people whose days begin late and end early or wish that was the case.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | gypsy music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gorgeous Rainy Day Music from Pickpocket Ensemble

Sometimes the best albums take the longest to get to know: that’s our excuse for sitting on this one as long as we have (it came out last fall). Bay Area instrumentalists Pickpocket Ensemble’s latest album Memory is one of the most unselfconsciously beautiful ones to come over the transom in recent months. Their dark, austere, gypsy-tinged acoustic melodies linger over tricky rhythms that sometimes shift shape to the point where it’s impossible not to get lost. Plaintive but not sentimental, wistful without being hokey, this is tremendously captivating rainy-day music.

The opening cut, Home, blends elements of Belgian barroom musette with tricky gypsy rhythms, bandleader/accordionist Rick Corrigan layering one track over another like a piece of baklava, guitarist Yates Brown and violinist Marguerite Ostro’s lines mingling with the wary ambience over the shifting pulse of bassist Kurt Ribak and percussionist Michaelle Goerlitz. The aptly titled 3 AM veers closer to gypsy jazz with staccato piano and memorably spiky solos from both piano and guitar. The third track, If (not to be confused with the cheeseball 70s hit by Bread…or the Pink Floyd tune, come to think of it) is another brooding minor key number, violin taking the lead over incisive, thoughtful fingerpicked guitar. Brown’s gorgeously spiraling solo over shuffling acoustic guitar and bright piano on the fourth track, Sometimes Never, is one of the album’s high points.

Baroque meets jazz on the wistful ballad Bird in a Web, featuring another beautiful Brown solo. They follow that with the bittersweet, elegaic waltz For Those Who’ve Left and then Seriously, which blends gypsy jazz with a cosmopolitan, Astor Piazzolla-ish elegance. The title track adds banjo and brass – and a sizzling muted trumpet solo – over a bracing minor-key gospel melody; after a brief Arab-flavored spot for solo cello, they close the album with a characteristically pensive, rhythmically dizzying number titled Nowhere Else. Fans of eclectic pan-global bands from Beirut to Kotorino will enjoy this: count it among the best we’ve heard lately.

February 20, 2011 Posted by | gypsy music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment