CD Review: Eclectica! – Flight of Fancy

Eclectica! –Flight of Fancy
(MGPCD004- CD Review by Chris Parker)

The band’s name says it all (or most of it). Their eclecticism is personified by guitarist Pete Oxley, who is celebrated as readily for his ‘world-jazz’ output (Curious Paradise) as for his more straightahead playing; fellow guitarist Nicolas Meier, whose work assimilates everything from heavy metal (Seven7) to flamenco, latin and Turkish music and jazz (Meier Group); violinist/singer Lizzie Ball, who has performed with the Covent Garden Soloists and the Philharmonia, but also tours with the likes of Simply Red and Meatloaf; and cellist Bernard Gregor-Smith, who was a founder member of the Lindsay String Quartet. Even the exclamation mark (cf. Oliver! or Impulse!) is significant, pointing up the energy, commitment and sheer brio of the quartet’s music.

On this, their second album, Oxley’s originals, from the brisk, latin-flavoured title track to the mellower ‘Sands of St. Ives’, are intelligently interspersed with Meier’s tastefully restrained but powerfully emotive compositions, the odd nod to classical (Rimsky-Korsakov, Albinoni) or Brazilian composers (Jobim), and – an unalloyed treat – Ball’s rendition of Joni Mitchell material (here, one of the Canadian genius’s most touching confessional songs, ‘A Case of You’, nicely complementing Ball’s earlier visit to ‘The River’).

All these bases are not only touched, however, but thoroughly investigated: the quartet specialises in a tasteful mix of filigree delicacy and carefully controlled, musicianly power, so that whether they’re fizzing through the Hungarian folk classic ‘Czardas’ or gently propelling Ball’s sweet and pure voice through Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’, Eclectica! are compelling and original. This rich and varied album should attract (and satisfy) listeners from all parts of the musical spectrum.

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