CD review

Simone Baron & Arco Belo – “The Space Between Disguises”

Simone Baron & Arco Belo – The Space Between Disguises
(GenreFluid Records GF0001. CD Review by Jane Mann)

This is a new recording, released at the end of last year, from Italian-American Jewish composer Simone Baron and ensemble Arco Belo, whose name was created to suggest bows, bellows and beauty. Baron plays piano and accordion (the bellows part) and contributes some vocals. The rhythm section comprises American Michael Pope on both acoustic and electric bass – he’s played with the Brecker brothers, Chick Corea, Joe Locke and other major names on the New York jazz scene – and Brazilian-American Lucas Ashby, (Paquito D’Rivera, New York Voices) on drums. The fourth member is American Patrick Graney, who specialises in tango and samba music, on an enormous range of percussion instruments. A virtuosic string trio (the bows) completes the ensemble. There are guest appearances from Sandeep Das on tabla and Mark Schatz on banjo, three extra violinists pop up and there are some electronic “vignettes” too, courtesy of Ray McNamara. This unusual instrumentation provides Baron with an interesting tonal palette.

On the sleeve notes Baron states “we dance in the spaces between jazz, chamber music and folk tunes from around the globe”. There is certainly a wide variety of styles – there’s 20th century sounding chamber music, very Bartok influenced. There’s romantic classical piano, as well as fiercely contemporary piano, especially on the Walter Bishop Jr-penned number Those Who Chant, which also features a Piazzolla-influenced accordion and violin duet. None of the avantgarde elements ever tip over into dissonance.

There are folk elements, including some actual Bartok – his version of a Romanian folk tune Buciumeana which Baron combines with a Moldovan folk melody in 9/8, played full tilt with lively hand clapping and Baron playing both piano and accordion parts. The string trio, Aaron Malone – violin and viola, Bill Neri – viola and Peter Kibbe – cello all play exquisitely. There are small interrupted snatches of Baron’s voice, reading aloud in various languages, which sound like someone tuning in and out of radio stations, complete with static.

Some of the work is melodically very pleasing (the beauty part of the band’s name). I particularly liked the title track The Space Between Disguises, composed by Baron. It has a lovely lyrical theme, shared between string players and voice, a stunning acoustic bass solo, some subtle yet propulsive percussion, and an elegant piano part which evaporates, tinkling like a music box, into the ether at the end. Then there is Baron’s pleasing arrangement of young Brazilian composer Tibor Fittel’s Valsa. The beautiful melody – on accordion, gently underscored by the bass – is heart-breaking. It has a delicate percussion accompaniment, and such a sweet Disney-style string arrangement, that you can imagine it being used as a film soundtrack. I would like to hear more of Baron and Fittel’s collaborations, and I believe more work together is already planned.

Is it jazz? Like so much contemporary art music, this is difficult stuff to categorise, but there may be a clue in the name of the record label – GenreFluid.

Musicians:
Simone Baron – Piano, Accordion
Michael Pope – Double Bass, Electric Bass
Lucas Ashby – Percussion, Drumset
Patrick Graney – Percussion
Aaron Malone – Violin, Viola
Bill Neri – Viola
Peter Kibbe – Cello

Track listing:
Post Edit Delete (Simone Baron)
Disguise Interlude I (Simone Baron feat. Ray McNamara)
Angle Of Incidence (Lucas Ashby)
Who Cares (Simone Baron & Mark Schatz)
Disguise Interlude II (Simone Baron feat. Ray McNamara)
Passive Puppeteer (Simone Baron)
The Space Between Disguises (Simone Baron)
Those Who Chant (Walter Bishop Jr. arr. Simone Baron)
Valsa (Tibor Fittel arr. Simone Baron)
Buciumeana/Kadynja (Bela Bartok/Traditional arr. Simone Baron)
Disguise Interlude V (Simone Baron feat. Ray McNamara)

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