CD REVIEW: Bashavel – Hoorhay

Bashavel – Hoorhay
( CD Review by Peter Slavid)

Bashavel is a band from Slovakia with firm roots in Slovakian folk music, but clear influences from modern jazz and other gypsy jazz traditions, and which might be described as ethno-jazz.

The cymbalom (sometimes cimbalom or cimbal) is a very distinctive sounding instrument that can work well in jazz, with it's crisp, sharp percussive sound. The instrument used here is the concert cymbalom, related to the zither and to the hammered dulcimer which is common in English folk music, but much larger and more complex. It approaches the size of a small piano and covers up to five octaves.

The problem is that the cymbalom is such a distinctive sound that integrating it into a band can be difficult. So sometimes the band plays as a conventional piano trio and does that very well. Sometimes the violin joins in as jazz soloist and sometimes the cymbalom sits quietly in the background playing a riff. Once violin and cymbalom take centre stage then the folk music feel is unmistakeable.

The CD opens with a nice bluesy theme on the piano picked up by violin and cimbalom. The piano, cymbalom and violin then each take solos – well done in each case but in rather different styles. When the music begins to take on the “hot club” character I find it of less interest.

I thought the whole thing worked best on the slow ballads. On Po Vajanského nábreží (A river promenade with Vajanský – a Slovak writer) there was less of a “swing” feel and a much more modern sound in the solos. Another ballad Smutná nedel'a (sad Sunday) which I think is a traditional tune, features excellent solos from piano and violin and strong dramatic conclusion.

The CD is likely to be more of real interest to listeners with an appreciation of gypsy jazz than to modern jazz fans, but the quality of the musicianship will hold the attention.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Modern Jazz on and

Stano Palúch – violin
Klaudius Kováč – piano
Marcel Comendat – cymbalon
Róbert Ragan – double bass
Peter Solárik – drums

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