The Free-Reed Review
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CD Review: St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble
Boulevards of Paris

Vladimir Uskakov - piano-accordion, piano
Sergei Likhachov - button-accordion
Nikolai Ukhanov - guitar
Vladimir Kourganov - bass guitar
Victor Chafranov - drums


1. V. Kouznetsov: Boulevards of Paris
2. Arranged by Y Shakhnov: Rolling Blue Balloon
3. A. Shalajev: Merry Clock
4. J. Privat: Rythmes Gitans
5. D. Tuveri: Piccolina
6. M. Likhachov: Pavlovsk in the Evening
7. (Traditional): Sakkijarven Polkka
8. G. Maljanu: Carnation
9. (Traditional): Jenkka
10. E. Vain: Slow Foxtrott
11. C. Porter: I Love Paris
12. T. Heida: Improviso-Dixi
13. G. Winkler: Valse-Intermezzo
total time: 42:46
released: 1995

P O Box 90
195426, St. Petersburg, Russia
Tel/Fax: +7-812 524-7506

Review by John Franceschina:

A highly entertaining "party" collection of musette waltzes, jazz novelties, and polkas, Boulevards of Paris again demonstrates the remarkable ability of the St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble to blend technical virtuosity, sensitive interpretation, and highly evocative tonal combinations into a most satisfying musical feast. Beginning with the title track, a medley of tunes that establishes the "Parisian" timbre of the album, the listener is treated to expertly synchronized bravura runs, sensuous lyricism, and a variety of musical styles, realized with a musicianship that identifies the extraordinary calibre of the performers.

Of the virtuosic selections, I find Merry Clock, La Tempete Rhythmes Gitans, and Sakkijarven Polka especially noteworthy in the use of tonal colors as well as manual dexterity. An expressive change of pace is found in Pavlovsky in the Evening where the musette accordion, initially combined with the electric piano, is later joined by a kind of soft rock rhythm, and in Slow Foxtrot, where the simple accordion melody, stylishly performed, soars over a Latin style accompaniment. Two jazz improvisations, Carnation, and I Love Paris, are less effective to my ear if only because their faultless execution, coupled with a very conservative harmonic palette, results in a performance that is squarely predictable. This, of course, is a matter of taste, and I am sure that the ensemble's energetic performances of works which I find less satisfying will have a wide appeal, if only because of the players' virtuosic command of their instruments.

Evoking the folk and popular timbres and textures of France, Boulevards of Paris is highly successful in mining the accordion's potential as a folk as well as commercially popular-sounding instrument without sacrificing the distinctive bravura style that is idiomatic to the St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble. The tracks are well produced and the tonal colors clear, and the result is a remarkable achievement.

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