Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cellocentric. Cellocentric.

Cellocentric.  Cellocentric.
Self-produced, 2014.  Cellocentric:

Cellocentric, formerly the Doug Wood Trio, is an acoustic instrumental group that does its own thing, inhabiting the space somewhere amidst the genres of folk, New Age, jazz, and pop.  All three are experienced musicians with varied careers, performing in many styles and often with nationally known musicians.  I was familiar with Wood from a couple of his previous albums of a similar nature, but with other musicians.  Hanish is a CIM graduate, who also plays with the Akron Symphony Orchestra, and has appeared with Kanye West and the Foo Fighters (have cello, will travel).  Frate (Berklee College of Music) also plays in Guys with Guitars, has toured with a bunch of rock bands, and teaches at the Cleveland Music Settlement.  

While Hanish’s cello plays a pivotal role in establishing the atmosphere of this music, Wood’s guitar is prominent in most of the tunes.  One or the other tends to provide the melody in each piece (sometimes they trade off), with the others in the background.  The dominant theme is mellow, or perhaps “ethereal,” as a couple of the subtitle suggest, with each piece falling gently into the next, for the most part.  There are no writing credits on the sparse notes, but I imagine most of the songs were written by one or more members of the group.  The exceptions are “While My Cello Gently Weeps,” a takeoff on the Harrison tune, the “Norwegian Wood/Cellocentric” medley, and of course, the “Spiderman Theme” at the end of the album.  Some of the other tunes remind me of others, such as “Mount Elbert Peak,” which brings to my mind “Can’t Find My Way Home,” the old Blind Faith song.  Perhaps it’s the chord changes.  Regardless, the music is lovely and gentle, with a playfulness that suggests the artists are very comfortable with each other. The cello, guitar, and bass intertwine beautifully and seamlessly. 

Two of my favorite pieces on this album are the “ethereal” ones: “Stars Over Gallatin” and “Too Far Away.”  There is something wistful about them that I find very charming.  My other favorite is “Baklava,” a lively tune with a bit of Greek atmosphere.  The entire album is highly listenable, although some of my younger reviewer colleagues would describe this as “background music.”  They sell it short. This is definitely not in-your-face material (although the tracks toward the end are faster), but one can choose to listen deeply to this and find a great deal that is worthwhile, and it holds up to repeated listening.  I recommend this to anyone to enjoys contemporary acoustic music.

Personnel:  Doug Wood (guitar, mandolin), Tara Hanish (cello), Darren Frate (bass); with guest Ben Lapps (percussion).
Tracks:  Black Canyon, Stars Over Gallatin (Ethereal Mood II), Mount Elbert Peak, While My Cello Gently Weeps, Too Far Away (Ethereal Mood III), Switchback, Norwegian Wood/Cellocentric, Baklava, Buzzing, Spiderman Theme.

Jeff Wanser

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