Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In review--Simple Gifts, Real Treasures

That Eternal Day
Independent release

I’m not a religious person, but I enjoy some choral music especially when it’s sung a cappella as it is on Cantus That Eternal Day. The Twin Cities (Minnesota) nine voice men’s choir has already been lauded with praise by Fanfare and for good reason. The men sing perfectly calibrated harmonies delivered with contagious enthusiasm—think African American gospel (listen to the driving Run On),  and Shaker songs. Think Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring rendition of Simple Gifts which appears also appears on this disk.

Listening to this collection of songs ranging from African American spirituals, to Sacred Harp Hymns, and Shaker tunes, you can hear the love and research that went into this project. From American colonial composers to Goin’ Home by Antonìn Dvořàk and Bobby McFerrin’s The 23rd Psalm, Cantus pulls many colorful threads together into a musical quilt. The album can be viewed as a music history document, a collection of relaxing songs, or support for religious worship. Regardless of how you listen to That Eternal Day, you’ll find that the simple gifts on this album fall under the category of real treasures.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

In review--Another Andalusia

Galileo Music

Hailing from Seville (Andalusia, Spain), the folkloric quintet Contradanza performs a mix of flamenco (no flamenco on Tentenelaire), renaissance dances, Arabic music and jazz. In some respects Contradanza shares common musical themes and styles with Eliseo Parra and Aulaga Folk, other Spanish folkloric groups that mix traditions. But please don’t ask me to elaborate since I know little about this group and can find scant information in English except a stub on Wikipedia and a review of a previous recording.

The music on Tentenelaire exudes warmth and exoticism. Arab baglama, accordion, flutes (Celtic and Arabic), fiddle, bass, guitar, African drums, accordion, mandolin provide a backdrop for Ricardo de Castro’s laidback vocals. While the songs flow together seamlessly and at a similar tempo, careful listens to the recording reveal a Spanish Celtic tinge on Cigüeña, heard mainly in the misty flutes and fiddle. The song Volver al sur (not confused with Astor Piazzolla’s song of the same title), features jazz horns and syncopation. Negro conde hooks with its pop groove and swirly accordion. The accordion and dance rhythms on Calèndula could be confused with a Basque Country dance. And I’m guessing that Fandango parao is a renaissance dance. It certainly resembles the renaissance Spanish dance music I have in my collection.

Alan Lomax where are you when I need you? While I trip over my musical knowledge of folkloric Spain, I'll tell you to check out Contradanza especially if you enjoy hearty acoustic music performed for sophisticated audiences. I have a soft spot for Spanish traditional music and jazz so my hope is that I’ll turn you onto this music. Certainly I find it relaxing, while still stimulating the brain with complex rhythms, diverse timbre, and musical textures. Beautiful melodies sweep you off your feet which is fine if you're not critiquing the recording. I wish I knew more about this group because I'm falling in love with these songs.