03 August 2010

Monday's mp3: Music from Jazzistan

Arboreal Quartet: The Arboreal Quartet (self-released)

Warning: innocent world music fans may find the Arboreal Quartet to be a gateway to the insidious world of jazz. And for that matter, jazz purists listening to this album may just find themselves entertaining a hitherto unexpressed curiosity about ethnic instruments. Thus is the curious impact of this Montreal-based quartet, which makes beautiful instrumental music that peeks over the fence between jazz and global sounds. Three-quarters of the group is standard jazz stuff: Tom Eliosoff on guitar, Fernando Gelso on drums, and J.F. Martins on bass. The unexpected twist comes though the sarode of John Wrinch Williams.

A cousin to the sitar, this Hindustani instrument takes on a variety of tones under Williams' capable fingertips. Sometimes it finds an interplay with the guitar with similar tones; sometimes it becomes twangy like a banjo. And sometimes its bent notes evoke slide guitar (or, yes, sitar).

Williams is also the group's composer and arranger, though that doesn't mean his sarode is always front and center. Gelso's crisp drumming and Martins' smooth upright bass (often sounding more like a bass guitar) provide the songs' heartbeat and identity sometimes more than the other players' melodic lines. The album includes no song notes to explain the story of the songs, all titled with a single word ("Lucky," "Upswing," "Dang," "Shift"). My favorite so far is the upbeat swing-reggae-jazz number "Snap." Don't think too much about the song names; find your meaning in the music, an unusual, rich, and surprising blend of crisp world-jazz instrumentals.

[mp3] Arboreal Quartet: Snap
from the album The Arboreal Quartet

While the group clearly would like you to buy their CD, it appears you can also download it from their website (link below) and make a donation. Play nice.

By the way, there's no indication in their literature that the band lives up to their name by playing their concerts while perched in trees. Though I haven't seen them live, so I can't yet be certain....

More Arboreal Quartet:
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