Folkalarm, 5

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Kevin Breit just keeps branching out.  Known for performing and recording with the likes of Norah Jones and Bill Frisell and for heading his instrumental rock band The Sisters Euclid, last years’ winner of the Toronto Musician Of The Year award has just released his fifth album with Folkalarm, one of his many side projects.

Though generally a trio, for this CD (appropriately entitled 5) Folkalarm has expanded their sound to a quintet, adding Perry White on saxophone and Denis Keldie on accordion to the standard lineup of drums, bass, and mandolin (Jorn Juul Andersen, Russell Boswell, and Breit respectively).  Fans of Kevin’s guitar work need not worry; though in forsaking the guitar in favour of the mandolin Breit may have downplayed the flurried intensity associated with his Sisters Euclid shows, this has been replaced with an understated creativity that allows the band as a whole to shine.

For example, in the first track (Used Car Charlie) the sax drives the listener into an airy jazz piece while the mandolin and accordion remain subtle and solid underneath.  Breit’s mandolin solo grows from his comping in a transition that is almost unnoticeable, gradually and naturally reaching flurry-of-notes territory before backing off to make room for the accordion.  Keldie achieves a great balance between hinting at standard squeeze-box fare while actually playing very hip lines which ultimately lead back to the growling saxophone head that drives the track back home again.

The disc hints at different styles inherent in the instrumentation without ever actually bowing to them.  A touch of klezmer here, a slice of polka there, while the band manages to maintain a voice all it’s own.  Quirky yet free of novelty, creative yet accessible, 5 can only really be nailed down in what it isn’t.  It isn’t a folk album, it isn’t a jazz album, it isn’t a Sisters Euclid album.  Instead it’s a very tasteful jumble of melodies and solos that keeps one’s musical ear wonderfully relaxed and keenly attentive at the same time.    

In 5 Kevin Breit has yet again released a recording that can keep both musicians and music fans interested.  While fans more familiar with Kevin’s playing through his brilliant rock quartet the Sisters Euclid might be surprised at the laid-back manner of this album, they are sure to notice these two constants:  Kevin Breit is one of the most creative musicians recording today, and he sure can put together a hell of a great band.

Used Car Charlie – Folkalarm (live, as a trio)

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