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Discs: Gogol Bordello, Works for Two Pianos, Paul Marinaro, Steve Gadd Band


Gogol Bordello

Pura Vida Conspiracy

[Casa Gogol/ATO]

3 stars

Eugene Hutz is a freak. I’m sure he’d be pleased to read as much. The Ukranian-born leader of the multiculti stew that is Gogol Bordello has spent the past 15 years attempting to prove this much to audiences all over the world. It worked in New York City, from which Gogol first emerged. It seemed to work here in Buffalo when local promoters took a chance on the group on its way up. And it has apparently worked at the many festivals where Gogol has graced the stage. Like a walking traditional Ukranian/punk rock mash-up, Hutz makes it so plain that he is enjoying the hell out of performing his band’s music live that the audience member feels compelled to act in kind.

In the recording studio, the shock value of the shtick – the percussion/horns/guitars/accordion cacophonous commingling – might wear thin minus strong songs to hang it on. “Pura Vida Conspiracy” has plenty of those, happily. “We Rise Again,” “Lost Innocent World” and “John the Conqueror (Truth is Always the Same)” fit this bill snugly. Many of these tunes sound like immigrant anthems, paeans to hopefulness and the promise of a brighter future. Others sound just plain freakishly strange, as if musicians from several different cultures met to jam in the streets as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “It Is the Way You Name Your Ship,” for example, boasts the exultantly angry lyric “You know it’s time for a change/But how and where do you start/When bitching and moaning, frowning and groaning, loathing and throning/Have torn you apart.”

Hutz doesn’t really attempt to answer this question, but his enthusiasm is nonetheless contagious throughout “Pura Vida Conspiracy.” That enthusiasm might not change the world, but it certainly makes dealing with the world the way it is much easier.

– Jeff Miers


Martha Argerich and Gabriele Baldocci

Works for Two Pianos


3½ stars

Pianist Martha Argerich, now an earth-mother type with long flowing silver hair, is admirably generous in sharing the spotlight. Especially in a two-piano disc, it’s hard to tell who is playing what. This album is full not only with a convivial spirit, but also a devil-may-care flair. It’s a live recording, with a sense of real excitement and risk. And yes, there are a couple of real clunkers, where the hands come down from what sounds like a great distance and fall on just the wrong notes.

Not that anyone cares, nor should anyone. This recording has grit and texture. The Shostakovich Concertino in A Minor has a jazzy sense of fun, as in a lot of Shostakovich’s lighter music, you aren’t sure whether he’s kidding. Ravel’s “La Valse,” I like better as a one-piano piece, for those who can hack it. But it is cacophonous and gripping.

The one thing that bothered me was that the Yamaha pianos sound thin. They don’t sound up to Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 1 Op. 5 (aka the “Fantaisie-Tableaux”). Though the pianists are playing gloriously, they aren’t able to get the rich sound that this romantic music demands. Argerich and Baldocci, though, take advantage of this thinness in Mozart’s famous Sonata in D, which opens the recital. They are especially sparse in their approach to this music, playing as if they are playing on two clavichords. The ingenious slow movement – it always sounds like bells to me, or wind chimes – is just as sensuous as the Ravel or the Rachmaninoff, but in a completely different way.

– Mary Kunz Goldman


Paul Marinaro

“Without a Song”

[Paul Marinaro]

2½ stars

There is a sweet story behind this CD. Paul Marinaro, a crooner considered by the Chicago Tribune to be “a Chicago treasure,” is the son of Joseph Marinaro of Buffalo. A sizable feature in the Tribune recently explained how the elder Marinaro, now 85, had dreamed of being a professional singer but put the ambition nobly aside to support his wife and 10 children by going into the asphalt business. God love Joseph Marinaro, you know? They don’t make them like that any more.

As a boy, Paul Marinaro loved his dad’s old LPs and rescued them from the junk heap. Ten years ago, he moved to Chicago to fulfill his father’s dream of being a singer. And on the disc, his debut CD, Marinaro pays lavish tribute to his father. The CD opens weirdly with an ancient acetate recording of his father as a teenager, singing a solo version of “That Old Black Magic.” Later we hear Paul Marinaro singing a duet with his father as a young man, “You Will Be My Music.” It’s hokey, and technically it doesn’t work out too well, but at the same time it is kind of haunting, because you just feel for both of them.

The story of this father and son is very human and moving. Beyond that, Paul Marinaro has definite potential. He has a wiry, smart, lively voice, sort of like John Pizzarelli’s. He scats well and not too much. His phrasing is good and he’s comfortable with the mic. I love him for including songs like “I Have Dreamed” from “The King and I” and “When I Look In Your Eyes,” the searching Leslie Bricusse ballad from “Dr. Dolittle.” His combo is good and sprightly.

But I kept sensing that he needs maturing, to be able to communicate more emotion. He sounds cocky. The love songs don’t sound sincere. As he himself sings, everyone must change. Tony Bennett grew into his gifts and has a soulfulness now that he lacked years ago. That happened to Rosemary Clooney, too. By the way, what is Joseph Marinaro up to now? Maybe he should make a record.

–M. K. G.


Steve Gadd Band



3 stars

This is so much more creative and ambitious a disc than I expected that it’s a minor shock. Steve Gadd is a gray eminence and jazz drummer much-beloved by his fellow musicians for the simplest of reasons: He is a truly great time-keeper and rhythmic pattern-maker. That is, he provides regular drum rhythms for other musicians to build on and to flourish over. In a recording studio, he’ll give musicians like Bob James and David Sanborn a solid foundation for their improvisations – often rock and R&B rhythms.

You don’t hire Gadd to hear an Elvin Jones one-man orchestra of thundering polyrhythms or a magnificent Tony Williams rhythmic counterline of sonorities and accents to the horns and piano. If you want an electrifying dialogue between soloists and drummer, you try to hire Jack DeJohnette, not Gadd. He’s there to pull everything together for other musicians, not to challenge and ignite them while pulling them together.

When a musician puts a disc together with no less than two compositions by Keith Jarrett and one by Abdullah Ibrahim (his classic “The Mountain”), he is telling you how very musicianly a player he is. No, you won’t find eruptions of rhythmic accents here, but his foundation rhythms are varied and unusual (shuffle rhythms, second line tattoos, etc.). And his fellow players – especially much-traveled keyboardist Larry Goldings – are superb. (Michael Landau is his guitarist, Jimmy Jackson his bassist and Walt Fowler is on trumpet and fluegelhorn.)

Which is to say it’s a listenable and often pretty jazz disc – something like a very pop ersatz Miles Davis disc from studio jazz players from 1972.

– Jeff Simon