By Don Heckman
Ashland, Oregon. The Siskiyou Music Project performance at the Old Siskiyou Barn Wednesday night was an unlikely combination of elements on several counts – all of them musically fascinating.
Start with the group: Musette Explosion, – which included Matt Munisteri on guitar, Will Holshouser on accordion and Marcus Rojas on tuba. An instrumentation that is both unusual and aurally challenging.
With Holshouser’s accordion leading the way, Musette Explosion’s music, at least part of its essence suggested by the word Musette in their name, was equally a rare blend of sources, reaching from Parisian cabaret, musette and dance hall to American jazz. And finding common creative territory among them all.
The evening’s program delved into traditional repertoire via songs such as “Automne,” “La Sorciere,” “Douce Joie” and Flambee” as well as original works by the group members. But the element that was consistent throughout was a danceable, buoyant rhythmic swing, often in ¾.
Add to that the way in which inventive improvising flowed from one instrument to another. Holshouser’s accordion provided the essential stylistic timbre, recalling the sound of a musette dance hall, enlivened with occasional swinging improvisations.
Guitarist Munisteri was a virtual rhythm section in himself. Alternating lush harmonic textures with strumming powerful enough to produce the drive of a drum set, he too offered inventive passages of his own.
It was tuba player Rojas, however, who was the most unexpectedly ingenious participant. Usually laying down a flowing melodic bottom to the music, he also frequently embarked upon remarkable solos. Ranging the full extent of his seemingly cumbersome instrument, he ran the gamut of improvisational sounds – roaring, jiving, thumping and sometimes even producing echoey shrieks.
All together it was a remarkable musical assemblage. True to their name, Musette Explosion recalled the musette dance hall tradition, while adding a lot more, inspired by their jazz roots, and delivering another one of the Siskiyou Music Project’s creative musical evenings.
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Photos by Faith Frenz. To see more photos by Faith Frenz click HERE.