Joël Grare

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This French release is a percussion album in the widest sense; the instruments all can be struck, but as played by Joël Grare they are sounded in various ways, including bowing (as on the edge of a bell) or plucking (a Vietnamese jew's harp). The jew's harp appears in "Wu's Next," track 9, a section of one of the three multi-movement pieces on the disc. Except for the opening Follow, played on a set of eight tuned French cowbells plus a Middle Eastern camel bell and an Indian cymbal, these larger units are only loosely connected; the focus is on the individual sections, where the possibilities contained within an individual instrument or group of instruments are explored imaginatively and even spectacularly. "Wu's Next" is a good place to start in sampling the program. Its title refers both to Grare's choreographer/collaborator Wu Zheng (and it would indeed be a treat to experience this music along with its dance component) and to the Who's Next album by the rock group The Who. The rock allusion will become delightfully clear to the listener (refresh yourself with "Won't Get Fooled Again" if you weren't a rock & roller at the time), and the work also carries an acknowledgment of inspiration by U.S. minimalist Terry Riley (also the recipient of a dedication from Pete Townshend of The Who in the form of "Baba O'Riley"). It is the combination of abstract thoroughness and gleeful connections with other music that makes Grare's playing so attractive -- he surprises but never lets the music devolve into a series of shocks, and his music is highly approachable despite a generally unfamiliar and indeed self-generating musical language. Some of the connections come simply through the vast variety of instruments employed; Grare goes even beyond the array of percussion employed by Evelyn Glennie on some of her more adventurous albums to include, within the scope of a single section ("Seve'n'seg"), Japanese drums, a Chinese gong, cymbals, a Mozambican xylophone, a thumb piano, Syrian frame drums, "demon-scaring sticks" from Indonesia, and a Latin box drum. Rhythmic concepts from non-Western traditions are introduced in simple form to go with the drums that would normally embody them. A delightful and stimulating experience for percussion lovers, beautifully recorded.

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