Dancing on the Volcano

Dancing on the Volcano

by Guy Klucevsek


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Dancing on the Volcano

Rightly or wrongly, much so-called avant-garde music is viewed as cerebral and inaccessible, somewhat lacking in pure enjoyment for a wide audience. Some have saddled accordionist/composer Guy Klucevsek with the avant-garde tag, but if the label applies, it is not because he makes music best analyzed in the head rather than felt in the heart. Mainly, Klucevsek is deemed avant-gardist because he can't be easily categorized otherwise. Consider the 2009 CD Dancing on the Volcano, his third Tzadik label release. With emphasis on compositions written for dance companies, the album is a perfect entry point into Klucevsek's world, filled with his trademark music that is not quite modern composition, not quite world music, not quite jazz -- it is all these things and more. Many of Klucevsek's previous CDs have ranged all over the map in their instrumental configurations, from solo accordion to duos to chamber ensembles of varying sizes, but Dancing on the Volcano features a lineup suggesting a jazz quartet, with Klucevsek joined by drummer/percussionist (and Claudia Quintet leader) John Hollenbeck, reed player Steve Elson, and bassist Pete Donovan. On three tracks Elson drops out and accordionist Alex Meixner very ably steps in to join Klucevsek in what might be considered a two-accordion front line supported by a bass/drums rhythm section. As always, Klucevsek's humor and wit are evident throughout, starting with his titles. The opening "March of the Lazy Prognosticators" seems to depict the lightest and most unthreatening marchers imaginable, with Hollenbeck using brushes as accordion and clarinet harmonize and accent one another in lovely counter-melodies. The energetic and vibrant title track places the band, now featuring Meixner, in Latin environs, while the two-part "Amazing Graves" slows down the pace; the intro has a Celtic flavor leading into a simply beautiful main portion with a memorable tune in a slow waltz tempo. "The Man with the Rubber Head" is well titled, a goofy multi-sectioned waltz with, yes, rubbery sound effects; the piece utterly collapses into percussive cacophony before a crazed slam-bang finale. Elson brings a klezmer flavor to his clarinet in "Grooved Shoulders" over a midtempo 9/8 pulse -- here the composition opens up for Elson and then Klucevsek to solo expressively, as they also do in "Night Traveler," a moody hybrid of klezmer, blues, and jazz that brings the dynamic to a near whisper at times. And while most of the album avoids avant jazz-styled solo showcases, on "Any Day" Elson brings out his inner Dolphy on bass clarinet over a 5/4 vamp. Hollenbeck is the perfect drummer throughout -- spirited and inventive, and obviously adept at the occasionally tricky meters, yet with crispness and subtlety that never overwhelm. The concluding "Closer by Far" (again wittily titled) is a duo track, featuring Klucevsek on spacious, airy piano rather than accordion, letting his notes reverberate into silence, soon joined by Elson's long, vibrato-laden soprano lines -- piano embellishes saxophone, joins together with it, and then departs, leaving the soprano alone with notes ringing into space. Before this crystalline ECM-flavored conclusion, however, the manic "The Return of Lasse" -- an Accordion Tribe tune from Lunghorn Twist -- is rendered poignant by its dedication, likely intended as a hopeful get-well message at the time, to Klucevsek's ailing friend and Tribe bandmate Lars Hollmer, who died at the end of 2008 between this album's fall 2008 recording and early-2009 release. In fact, Dancing on the Volcano in its entirety is dedicated to Hollmer, a heartfelt gesture and also apt musically, in that the album is warm in its melodicism, daring in its rhythms, engaging in its ensemble sound, and -- perhaps most of all -- remarkable in its ability to unify diverse musical traditions into something singular and holistic. Now that is truly avant-garde music for everyone.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/24/2009
Label: Tzadik
UPC: 0702397762720
catalogNumber: 7627
Rank: 291515

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