The viola is identified almost exclusively with classical music, much more so than its sister violin, which has a rich history as an occasional jazz instrument reaching back to the first half of the 20th century. The young Canadian artist Tanya Kalmanovitch showcases her not inconsiderable talents on viola (and occasionally violin) on the accessible and fascinating album Hut Five, on which she leads a tuneful, compatible quartet that performs her often mournful compositions with a graceful sensitivity. Kalmanovitch produces a richly sonorous conservatory-based tone that exudes a lovely consistency, not unlike a rich, full-bodied wine. There is a chamber quality and even a bit of sameness to some of the composed pieces, but Kalmanovitch tries hard to diversify by offering Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" and a Russian folk melody, "Oh, You Dear Little Night." The quartet lets loose its reigns a bit more on the seven freely improvised "Vignettes," on which the bandmembers, particularly guitarist Rick Beckham, show off diverse musical roots. In some ways the group may remind the listener of the String Trio of New York particularly in the latter's more mature, somewhat less experimental phase. There are beautiful sounds emanating from this group, and lots of pregnant potential, particularly from its leader, whose writing and improvisational skills are often worth exploring.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Loewy