Feb. 22, 2012 10:59

taking a listen

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reviews of the moment

THE MELDAVIANS—Farewell


Arigemon Asking a free-jazz artist to settle within the confines of the

blues and boogie is like caging a bull with chicken wire; sooner or later they’re gong to bust out. Pianist and music professor Dave Fox self-interned for his quirky but fun album with his new project the Meldavians. Entitled Farewell Arigemon, it’s a concept album that’s possesses little in the way of a coherent storyline when heard as a standalone work, so it’s far better served as a companion piece to his book The Illustrated Tales of Meldavia, Vol. I: The Summer of Isnon. Quibbling with the specifics of the story aren’t essential to appreciating Farewell Arigemon, an album that draws from Champion Jack Dupree’s boogie-blues, Donna Jean & the Tricksters-style groove rock and Frank Zappa’s twisted sense of humor. The core characteristic of Farewell Arigemon is, as promised by Fox’s credentials, its unpredictability. Album opener “Who Is the Better” promises relatively safe prog before momentarily shifting into earsplitting hard rock with vocalist Melissa Reaves playing the part of Robert Plant. Likewise, “Eleven Hundred Years” is standard blues fare before taking a weird and ungainly turn into ’80s soft rock with Reaves this time misplaced, channeling Meatloaf. For all the willful disregard for cohesion, the album’s best moments come as Fox squares off against guitarist Scott Sawyer. “The Burning of Oliste’s Palace,” surely a book reference, is a devilish exercise in syncopation from which both players unfurl unnerving solos. Reaves is at her combustible best when using her voice to accent the album’s rolling peaks and valleys. She strikes like an arbalest to the heart on the amazing “Turn Back the Hands of Time,” but feels underutilized on curveball “Have You Ever Made a Movie?” But this is an album full of curveballs that Fox pitched to his bandmates, and more often than not, they get hit out of the park.

74/100

The Meldavians will perform at the Blind Tiger On Sunday with the Backburners and the Hall Monitors.

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