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LAST WEEK's EDITION
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What comes to mind when you hear the words "folk music"? For some of us, those words conjure the notion of music produced by a particular sect or coming from a tradition in one part of the earth or another.
It doesn't bring thoughts of music we wish to hear. It probably will be strange to our ears, not worthy of the time it might take for us to somehow decipher what it is and what it attempts to say. Folk music, we decide, is music by others, people living on another continent, people who sing in languages we don't know.
Folk music is similar to jazz. All the folks who make folk music want is the kind and undivided attention to the product. Just give us a chance, they seem to be saying. We will play our music. Some of you will like us; others won't. But give us the dignity of listening to what we have to offer.
Walking through your favorite record shop or scrolling down a list on your preferred Web site offering CDs, you will find your fingers strolling through the music you like, and you'll reach the folk music section only by accident. But go there, look around, and you may see something that seems attractive.
From Russia comes the Karelian Folk Music Ensemble and their new release called "From the Land of the Karelia" (Gadfly Records). This album is the trio's third for Gadfly, so they've achieved some small amount of recognition in the United States. They deserve plenty more, for this is an album that will keep you entranced from the first note to the last sound at its conclusion.
The group comes from Petrozavodsk, in the Republic of Karelia, a large region that is part in Russia and part in Finland. The musicians play some challenging instruments and sing in Finnish, Russian and Karelian. [MP3 clips from this album can be found here. -- Ed.]
Members of the trio include Igor Arkhipoff, who is music director of the Petrozavodsk State University Folk Ensemble. Alexander Bykadoroff, music director of the folk group Myllarit, has toured Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the U.S., Canada, Scotland and Germany. Arlo Rinne began his musical career as a singer in boys' choir when he was six. He plays many instruments.
The music on this new album ranges from the light-hearted to the solemn. The 17 songs are explained in the liner notes and range from the sublime to the silly. For instance, in "Kaksi Kuninkaan Lasta" (Two Children of the King), the story deals with two unhappy royal youngsters. The princess swims across the bay to meet her lover. But enemies put out the light of the candles that are showing her the way and she drowns. In the last verse, she says to please send her greetings to her parents and to tell them not to worry about her.
The Karelian Folk Music Ensemble is on a tour of the U.S. and Canada with concerts coming in the next couple of weeks in Ashland and Corvallis, Oregon; Olympia, Wash.; Portland, Oregon; Richland and Seattle, Wash.; and Minneapolis and NY Mills, Minn.
Pajama PartyGadfly Records is also releasing today "Ukrainian Pajama Party," which will cause smiles, giggles and outright guffaws for the unusual and charming Gideon Freudmann. This is his sixth CD for Gadfly and he has produced a disc that should keep devotees of humor in music eagerly snapping up copies.
The record company describes Freudmann as "the world's only cellist/singer/songwriter." The new album contains 13 instrumentals and four songs including "Bad News Cafe" and "Japanese Car." Surprisingly, the title tune is rather quiet and unassuming, but that's not the proper description for most of the other tunes.
Chick Corea & FriendsThe distinguished jazz musician Chick Corea currently has one of the most accomplished bands of his long career. Origin contains several sidemen who have blossoming careers on their own with bands they lead when not performing with Corea.
Corea's record label, Stretch, has just released a compilation album containing two tunes by Origin, along with material from the Origin sidemen working with their own groups. Listening to the album, you'll notice definite similarities between the boss's band and the groups put together for working during down times.
The album starts with Origin performing a nice piece called "Wigwam," and closes with an Origin cut released only in Japan by the title of "Psalm." It's more than 9 minutes of total pleasure.
In between, the Avishai Cohen Band plays the catchy "I B 4 U," and "Madrid." As expected, Cohen's bass work is superlative. Also heard are two nice ones each from the Tim Garland Group, the Steve Wilson Quintet, the Jeff Ballard Trio and the Steve Davis Quartet.
The album, incidentally, is "specially priced," which translates to a retail of $8.98. Such a deal!
Deadline NearsIf you want to be the winner of the 8-CD boxed set called "Bill Evans Trio: The Last Waltz," you have until March 6 (next Tuesday!) to send your 250-word essay to this columnist via e-mail at email@example.com. Don't miss out.
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