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Album reviews

MICHAL BONCZA reviews the latest from Dodo Street, Cormac Byrne and Adam Summerhayes and Jambu e os Miticos Sons da Amazonia

Dodo Street
Natural Selection
(Extinct Records/Nimbus Alliance)
★★★★★

THIS bunch of dodos is alive and doing fine. Do not be distracted by their hats — their madness is medicated with jaw-dropping instrumental skills.

Adam Summerhayes (violin and composition), Malcolm Creese (bass), Murray Grainger (accordion), Cormac Byrne (bodhran and percussion) and Piers Adams (recorder) have been round the musical block more times than they care to admit.

But it is this experience and unsurpassed individual virtuosity that makes Natural Selection nothing short of phenomenal.

From the delicate pianissimos of St Kilda through the wondrous melancholy of Dodo’s and Neil Gow’s Laments to the soaring scapes of Larking, Flight of the Dodo or Cock at Sunrise, the musical precision and discipline are breathtaking as themes are moved masterfully between instruments.

Klezmer, tango, Gypsy and Celtic echoes linger almost imperceptibly in these ear-worms.

Hats off to the Dodo’s collective genius.

Cormac Byrne and Adam Summerhayes
Stone Soup
(Extinct Records/Nimbus Alliance)
★★★★★

THE spell cast by the Derbyshire Dales inspired Cormac Byrne and Adam Summerhayes to abscond there and improbably create this album of bodhran and fiddle music.

Byrne is to the bodhran what Paganini was to the violin, while Adam Summerhayes is, on this  evidence, quite possibly the reincarnation of the master himself.

This is no idle exaggeration and these variations on Arising, Moving and Awakening will beguile from the first phrase to the last chord.

Marimbula, bodhran and assorted fiddles are employed to explore the hallowed space between composition and improvisation and the intricate dialogue between two instruments enthrals with the singular virtuosity of each rhythm, phrase and mode.

The coherence of the soundscape exhilarates and soothes in turn as it oscillates between the rhapsodic and the soft and meditative.

Highly recommended.

Various Artists
Jambu e os Miticos Sons da Amazonia
(Analog Africa)
★★★★★

THE LARGE port of Belem sits at the confluence of  the rivers Para and Araguaia — part of the larger estuary of the Amazon — but is far from the metropolitan areas of the Atlantic coast.

Thus these 40-year-old recordings of bands which played around the hundreds of island township outside Belem or its working-class neighbourhoods are a revelation.

Nineteen songs by 11 combos astonish with their polyphonic richness, audacious arrangements and individual and collective musicianship. The carnivalesque joie de vivre permeates every line sung, every pulsating beat and every outrageous solo on sax, trumpet or guitar.

They call it “forro” and Pinduca’s Vamos Farrear, Grupo da Pesada’s Voa Andorinha, Messias Holanda’s O Gallo Canta and O Macao Assovia will get any party bopping in 20 seconds flat.

Forro’s godfather, Mestre Cupijo e Seu Ritmo, fittingly close with the exquisite instrumental Despedida (Farewell).

Marvellous.

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