Beginners (Tzigane)

Brad Cox Ensemble 

Beginners (Tzigane)

This album might have saved my life. Indeed, had I not possessed the CD case to Beginners, I never would have scraped enough ice off my windshield to drive home at 3 a.m. on a recent wintry night. Big ups to Mr. Cox for the kick-ass ice scraper. The music's not bad, either. In the pursuit of epic variety, Beginners features elements of jazz, opera, pop, folk, blues, Latin fusion, chamber music, arena rock and -- why the hell not? -- a little Eastern Bloc theater. Assuming my ability to speak French-dialect Hungarian hasn't gotten rusty, the Tzigane label name translates loosely into "Hungarian gypsy." Undoubtedly, there is a nomadic element to the musical mush Brad Cox has ladled out for us. (When the tireless composer and pianist isn't dreaming up his own phonetic potpourri, he's a contributor to Tango Lorca, Jazzdischarge and the Kansas City Ballet.) The largely instrumental Beginners exhibits everything from bursts of guitar whine to melancholy electronica to the Fiddler on the Roof vibe of "Three Balkan Folk Songs" to the vocals of jazz chanteuse Krystle Warren and opera man Nathan Granner. Toss in some bass, horns, strings, accordion, blues guitar, piano and a couple of primal screams, and you get something that's enjoyable as Eclectic Music to Impress Your Artsy Friends With. Plus, it can come in handy when the next ice storm hits.

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