Thursday, December 5, 2013

In review--Accordion from the South

Toninho Ferragutti
O Sorriso da manu 

When I think of South American accordion music, my thoughts usually gravitate towards Argentine tango and the late Astor Piazzolla.  However, many wonderful South American folkloric music centers on the accordion brought to Latin America originally by Italian and German immigrants.  Brazil certainly has its share of folkloric traditions in which the accordion plays a key role.  Brazilian accordionist Toninho Ferragutti and his quartet (accordion, clarinet, percussion, and bass) team of with a chamber ensemble of strings and piano as they explore forró and choro dance songs along with an abstract version of flamenco on the recording O Sorriso da manu.

Delightfully playful and contemplative in turns, listen to Flamenta with its lively castanets and the titular track with its klezmer-style clarinet.  When I listen to this recording, I’m reminded more of Finnish accordionist and composer Maria Kalimeni than Piazzolla.  The music here falls on the brighter side with little tension, even during the staccato passages.  The instruments fit together like tongue and groove construction and the conversation with the clarinet and accordion reminds me of Galician music. No matter how you look at it, this is world music in the broadest sense with romantic interludes to faraway places and exotic musical phrases and textures.  Ethereal one minute and spirited the next, I’m enjoying listening to Ferragutti’s compositions since I usually hear his talent gracing the albums of some of Brazil’s hottest talent. And now we know why Ferragutti is in high demand.

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