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]