Guy Klucevsek Citrus, My Love
Starkland (digital reissue)
Jenny Lin and Guy Klucevsek Simple Music
Steinway and Sons
Review by Cliff Furnald
"Passage North - Ceremonial" from Citrus, My Love
Guy Klucevsek, as those of you who have been reading my reviews for the last 30 years well know, holds a special place in my musical heart. His Polkas From The Fringe recordings featured some of the world's leading musical geniuses and lunatics. "Roadrunner," his very physical interpretation of a commission from John Zorn, is a textbook example of how to manipulate an instrument beyond its actual musical notes. There is muscularity and nuance in his interpretations of scenes from Annie Proulx's Accordion Crimes (slyly titled "Accordion Misdemeanors"), a suite of pieces he composed for the audio book. There is the extreme sensitivity he can exhibit in works by the likes of Erik Satie and his long time musical friend, the late Lars Hollmer, who was part of The Accordion Tribe with Klucevsek and other accordionists from around the world.
This is a man who has named songs and albums with phrases like "The Well-Tampered Accordion," "Flying Vegetables of the Apocalypse," "The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour" and "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My (Wives and Lovers) Head," his oddball nod to the music of Burt Bacharach. His own tributes to Hollmer, "The Return Of Lasse" (with Accordion Tribe) and "For Lars, Again" (from Teetering on the Brink of Normalcy) show the deep connection the accordionist can make between his subjects and listeners. I have been lucky to have heard Guy in live solo performances a number of times over the years, and his wit and skill, his human communication with an audience, are palpable.
In 1992 he released Citrus, My Love. It is a cycle of original compositions for accordion and strings that featured The Bantam Orchestra - Mary Rowell, violin/viola; Erik Friedlander, cello and Jonathan Storck, double bass.
I wrote at the time, "Klucevsek is a rare musician who has mastered both understatement and over-abundance and the truly remarkable ability to bring these things together. I've seen his work compared to Satie, Copeland, Bartok, Glass and Zappa, sometimes in overlapping phrases, and each has its place. He is more than these simple comparisons, though. His music has an acid modernism, a glassy quality that passes morning light in distorted ways. Citrus more than other recent works is stark and undecorated, moving from bare floors of solo accordion to empty rooms that explode at the sound of the strings. There is a formal tension tempered by simplicity that evokes an early American style... Klucevsek has never ceased to amaze me with his modest approach to complex themes."
It was originally issed by the Swiss label RecRec, and it went out of print just 2 years later, and has now been reissued by Starkland, who has many reissues and new works by Klucevsek in their catalog. Having taken the time to listen again to this recording, I'd not change a word of my earlier review, other than to add that those who buy this digital release will have the opportunity to hear his contemporary commentary on each of the tracks, in a set of casual videos, one of which you can watch below.
"Mother Courage and Her Children"
Klucevsek also has a large catalog of duet works with other artists. His latest is Simple Music, 33 miniatures for theater and film by Georgian composer Giya Kancheli, performed with pianist Jenny Lin in solo and duet settings. Guy described the process to me.
"It was a real pandemic project: Jenny recorded her solos and duo tracks in a studio in VA last July. I recorded my solos and overdubbed my duo parts in August, here in the living room of my house, with engineer in the basement, hooked up to a producer in another state, via Ethernet! Even writing all that makes my head spin."
On the solo accordion front, Kancheli's nod to Bertolt Brecht, "Mother Courage and Her Children," gives Klucevsek the opportunity to show the subtle side of his playing. There is a dark drama to the duet, "Don Quixote," but underneath the tune, the timing gives it a sense of whimsy.
"Valse" from "Don't Grieve"
Themes from "Don Quixote" & "Sior Todero"
Solo and in duets, they tackle themes from Shakespeare (quite a few) to Samuel Beckett ("Waiting for Godot"). Lin's treatment of "Valse" from the 1969 Soviet film directed by Georgiy Daneliy "Don't Grieve" is all about the melody, with little ornamentation to get in the way. It's an exercise in gorgeous simplicity.
I have been listening to Guy Klucevsek's work for decades now, and he always surprises. Sometimes he gives you a moment of thoughtfulness, or a smile, and sometimes an outright full-bellied laugh. He's an American treasure, and I am pleased to have spent time with him and with his music over the years.
So here's a little more Guy for you:
A full live solo concert at WPKN's radio studios in Connecticut, in May of 2005