People's Bizarre

People's Bizarre

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This Bay Area sextet has a collective musical pedigree that would make any ensemble jealous. From music degrees from the University of Michigan and Oberlin to playing in the undersung yet illustrious Transmission and studying and performing with Morton Subotnick, Fred Frith, Erik Friedlander, Peter Kowald, and Larval, these young people have between them a universe of modern and classical music with one deeply shared love: the passion for improvisation. The debut album by People's Bizarre is a lushly orchestrated, deliriously beautiful, and brave amalgam of folk and chamber musics, jazz, free improvisation, and melodic and harmonic invention. With a front line that consists of the saxophones and clarinets of Colin Stetson and the accordion and piano of Dan Cantrell, People's Bizarre weaves a seamless tapestry of sounds, moods, nuances, and musics from antiquity to the future into a gloriously illustrated tapestry that is not only brave but thoroughly accessible. Given the gorgeous string stylings of Sarah Jo Zaharako's violin and Jessica Ivry's cello, with a solid bottom formed by drummer and percussionist Josh Tillinghast and bassist Eric Perney, People's Bizarre explores the ins and outs of Israeli and gypsy folk traditions on "Joy Fu Fritters" and "New Car Selma," and the vision of a new kind of rock & roll on "Cold, Cold Night," led by Cantrell's accordion slithering in and out of the melodic line, setting up a minor-key drone to be vamped over. His vocals, accompanied by a stinging harmony from Ivry, turn the track into a haunting and visceral aural vignette of life on the margins. And these are only the first three tracks. There are more moods and surprises and genuine mysteries here than most bands provide listeners in a lifetime. By the time Sarah Jo Zaharako's lilting country-waltz "What You Need" falls sadly and sweetly from the speakers, the listener will have been taken through colors, shades, and histories both secret and sacred and left gently on the shore of return to consider what miraculous occurrence has just taken place. Highly recommended.

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