Fans of David Grisman or early Bela Fleck should love this second release from Taarka. The band, hailing from Portland Oregon, is comprised of Enion Pelta on violin, David Tiller on mandolin (formerly with ThaMuseMeant), Jason Flores on acoustic bass, and Jarrod Kaplan on percussion and hand drums (also in Hanuman and Trillian Green). Though they've only been playing together since 2002, Taarka has been making a name for themselves playing many well known festivals on the west coast including, High Sierra Music Festival and Oregon Country Fair to name a few. Pelta, Tiller, and Kaplan are original members, with Flores being the newest addition to the band, replacing James Whiton (original bass player and formerly with the now defunct Apricot Jam).
This music could be described as gypsy jazz, though at times it incorporates Middle Eastern, traditional folk, and even Klezmer. The songs exhibit quite a range of influences and styles, and each individual player is extremely proficient on their respective instruments. Most of the tunes are original instrumentals, and each band member is a contributor to the writing of the album.
The title tune, "Even Odd Bird," written by Tiller, interweaves violin and mandolin to produce a beautiful tapestry and creates the feeling of a romp through a flower field. The most "jam-like" track is probably Kaplan's "Fat Chance," a groovy dance beat accented occasionally by vocal scatting. The vision of swirling veils dancing on the wind is the image produced by the Middle Eastern-influenced "Semall Aztlan," written by Flores. The third track, "Kudzu," written again by Kaplan and also a Trillian Green standard, finds the band evoking Bela Fleck's syncopated jazzgrass. "Dance for Impeachment" has Pelta and Tiller playing a sweet Klezmer melody accented by Spanish maracas. The Enion Pelta penned "March Waltz" sounds like it could be played at a Jewish wedding, though it would probably end up being a pretty funky wedding. Accompanying these original tunes is a traditional Indian folk song, "Dhun", which allows the band to show their softer side.
This CD covers all bases for the jazzgrass, folk, or new acoustic fan, and should appeal to all those who appreciate joyful musical diversity, sweet melodies, and solid musicianship.
Susan J. Weiand
JamBase | California
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