Café Noir

Window to the Sea

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The violin, guitar, accordion, and bass group Café Noir started out as an instrumental ensemble that played a little of both classical and Gypsy (or Gypsy-sounding) music, a formula which won them much acclaim from the likes of NPR and earned them many comparisons to Django Reinhardt. Here perhaps was a worthy successor to that 1930s Parisian combination of jazz, Gypsy, and musette. On Window to the Sea, their second album, a major personnel shift served to intensify the Gypsy strain. The group adopted a singer named Randy Erwin-Skalicky who plays the accordion and guitar, sings beautifully, and was at one time a national champion yodeler. And yes, he does yodel on the album. About a third of the numbers on Window to the Sea are instrumental; two-thirds are vocal. The vocal numbers, all by Erwin-Skalicky, are, for the most part, hectically fast, in a gloss on Gypsy wedding music. Their tone is ironic and witty, often in deliberate contrast to the subject: "The Battle of the 5 and Dime" is about a broken WWII vet who commits suicide, and "Monsieur Verdoux" is a take-off on the Charlie Chaplin picture of the same name about a literal lady-killer. The instrumentals are slower and more lush; ones like "End of the Circle" demonstrate the group's ability to create an orchestral sound with only a half a dozen musicians. For the listener in search of sophisticated romanticism with a stimulating mixture of influences, Window to the Sea is the album of choice.

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