Trey Anastasio's 2004 release Seis De Mayo is an interesting and very pleasant listen. And for the legion of fans that religiously follow Trey's band Phish from city to city it's a great CD to show mom: "See mom, this is the guy I've been following around." This point holds true because Seis De Mayo isn't really anything like Phish. In fact, Trey only appears on two of the seven instrumental tracks found on the disc. This is Trey the writer, composer, and producer, definitely not Trey the guitar-ripping rock star. So if any consumer had thoughts of getting into more Phish, or Trey Band here, they would perhaps be quite disappointed. But on the other hand, if one were to simply read the list of instruments (balafon, violin, viola, cello, bassoon, and French horn, to name but a few) and still come away expecting something like the rock influenced history of Trey, well that person would be in need of a serious musical lesson, one we have no time for here.
Time rears its head again as we look at the fact that this CD clocks in at under 30 minutes. A bit short for a full-length, but Trey certainly has never been one to live by convention. It would have been nice to add a few more arrangements, or maybe a fingerpicking Trey solo acoustic number, but if you understand this is classical music and can get over paying full price for less than a half hour of music there should be no problems.
While each of the songs contains a subtle beauty there are a few that seem to jump out at the listener. The opening number "Andre The Giant" is gorgeously accented by Abou Sylla on balafon, and Fode Bangoura on djembe. Clocking in at almost four minutes this is the second longest offering, moving gracefully between earthy African percussion and airy guitar work by Trey on acoustic and Mike Gordon on bass.
The popular Anastasio composition "The Inlaw Josie Wales" seems to be presented in its most appropriate form with Trey being supported by The Ying Quartet (two violins, a viola, and a cello). On the next track "All Things Reconsidered" (first showing up on the 1993 Phish release Rift), Trey leaves The Ying Quartet to perform alone, again showing Trey's vision as a composer, not just a player.
The triumphant return of "Guyute" as the final number is clearly the album's showpiece, clocking in at over 11 minutes. It's no secret that Trey has been working this well-known Phish composition into a classical setting, as he taught and conducted the piece with the Vermont Youth Orchestra in 2001. And just as he did not perform on the song with the VYO, again we find Trey stepping off the stage and orchestrating form behind the scenes. This time Trey has enlisted the help of the world renowned 66-piece Seattlemusic Orchestra to dance through the beautiful passages of this sprawling number. Here "Guyute" begins with a string-heavy taste of another Phish masterpiece, "My Friend, My Friend" before plunging into the songs namesake, "Guyute." This is without question the most ambitious and most impressive track found on Seis De Mayo and perhaps hints at what is truly pushing Anastasio's musical passion these days. Phish has long been viewed as a highly complex and orchestrated rock band, and when one considers the manner in which Trey conducts his Trey Anastasio Band, (often putting his guitar down to literally conduct with his back to the audience) we find the root of what happens when Phish and Trey deliver the goods to the masses in dark arenas.
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