Round About Weill is a curious tribute to, and almost a send up of, the music of Kurt Weill. This ECM recording by the Italian clarinet and accordion duo Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscia is "inspired by Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny," though the program also borrows from other Weill works, and includes several original pieces. Some of these contain quotations of yet more material, such as an allusion to the common popular ditty Heart and Soul and the Cumparsita Maggiorata, in which Gerardo Matos Rodriguez's famous tango is transposed into a major key.
Trovesi and Coscia toss the whole thing into a sort of klezmer-ish salad that is dressed in a café concert overtone. Trovesi and Coscia are expert improvisers on their instruments, with Trovesi playing every member of the clarinet family. He favors those who tend to have a limited range, such as the E flat or bass clarinets. Since the combination of these instruments with the accordion tends toward a mostly high and mid-rangy sound, the ears tire of them easily, and the occasional introduction of a string bass into the texture would not have hurt this production at all, even as it might have intruded somewhat upon Trovesi and Coscia's duo aesthetic. The quotations of tunes outside the compass of the project, while clever at first, tend to wear out their welcome.
Nonetheless, as anyone who has tried to play the piano/vocal scores of Weill's operas can tell you, though the music sounds simple it is murder to play, especially as Weill's part writing spreads out over such a large span. Trovesi and Coscia manage to get all of Weill's parts into their rather limited instruments, an achievement in itself. They understand that the shorter, snappier syncopations of "continental" jazz are not quite the same thing as in the American variety; Trovesi is fluent in both styles and moves easily between the two. There is a lot to enjoy on Round About Weill, as long as one understands that Trovesi and Coscia's approach to Weill truly is "round about," and that the disc might fare better taken in a couple of sittings.