jazz at the gardner: cirkestra

The Isabel­la Stew­art Gard­ner Muse­um (Boston)
Feb­ru­ary 19, 2009

The breadth and diver­si­ty of cul­tur­al expe­ri­ences avail­able here in Boston is amaz­ing. So per­haps it should not sur­prise me that I could walk four min­utes beyond my front door to find myself trans­port­ed to anoth­er world in the sump­tu­ous­ly-appoint­ed Tapes­try Room of the Isabel­la Stew­art Gard­ner muse­um, lis­ten­ing to a haunt­ing­ly anachro­nis­tic yet infec­tious­ly live­ly per­for­mance of… cir­cus music. (But sur­prise me it does!)

One must clar­i­fy what we mean by cir­cus music. “What makes it cir­cus music,” writes band­leader, accor­dion­ist, and for­mer clown Peter Bufano in the con­cert pro­gram, “is that I wrote it for the cir­cus.” What he means is that their music has noth­ing in com­mon with Thun­der and Blazes or Wurl­itzer band organs. It is a study of cir­cus music from mul­ti­far­i­ous regions and tra­di­tions. Mid­dle east­ern grooves give way to strains of jazz. Klezmer becomes Turk­ish. The waltzes are dark and creepy but swinging—minor-key reminders of the fes­tive and more inti­mate cir­cus­es of the past.

Bufano’s expres­sive accor­dion pairs nice­ly with the com­ple­men­tary tim­bre of Käthe Louise Hostetter’s five-string fid­dle. Michael Dobson’s drum­ming is sub­tle but com­plex and pep­pered with occa­sion­al nov­el­ty sounds. Michael Mil­narik holds things togeth­er on the tuba while Sam­my Lett lets loose with sweet stac­ca­to sax solos. Sub­lime.

Cirkestra, like the cir­cus, is meant to be enjoyed live, but their records are pret­ty impres­sive too. Check them out.

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February 20, 2009 February 20, 2009 reviews by Scott [permanent link]