Bowfire

Bowfire

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Bowfire is a group of 11 violinists and fiddlers (plus rhythm section) gathered together under the direction of jazz violinist Lenny Solomon to celebrate the variety of modern and traditional violin idioms. All the players are virtuosos; some (like Solomon and St├ęphane Allard) are jazz players while others come from the classical (Moshe Hammer, Peter DeSotto), bluegrass (Ray Legere), Celtic (Richard Wood), and other traditions -- the group even includes George Gao, who plays the somewhat violin-like Chinese erhu. The problem with a program like this, though, is that by touching only lightly and superficially on a multitude of vastly different musical traditions, it comes off feeling more like a Las Vegas spectacle than an actual exploration of any of them; instead of musical substance, you get a flashy mixture of impressive chops and glitzy arrangements that shift directions before they can get very interesting. "Fiddler in the 'Hood" is pleasant enough, but its attempt at urban funk is flaccid and uninteresting; "Mystic Moon" sounds like a cross between Enigma and Muzak; the group's inevitable rendition of "Orange Blossom Special" is an overwrought wank-fest that offers lots of fiddle pyrotechnics without actually being any fun to listen to. There are high points here, to be sure: the erhu part on the jazzy "Lazy Ray" is a nice touch, and Ray Legere's mandolin solo on "Fiddle Medley" is spectacular. But for the most part, this is unfailingly pleasant and utterly forgettable music.

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