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CD REVIEW: Maria Kalaniemi & Aldargaz - Ahma
By Ben Ohmart - 05/21/2007 - 10:34 AM EDT

Artist: Maria Kalaniemi & Aldargaz
Genre: World
CD Review:
The accordion has never sounded as good as it does beneath Maria's expert cuticles, helped on by all the top players from the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department, which comprises the band Aldargaz. Sibelius? That's in Helsinki, Finland, mate.

The playing is inspired, and more akin to jazz than any World Music mask you make it wear. Instrumental on the whole, there are times when a da dada voice comes in to make itself a part of the orchestration, as in the jig-like 'Melos', king of the bar room set. Jovial, social, a real swing at the fences.

A far cry from the one that follows it, a moody 'Lovina' that seems to sweep the Finnish countryside, using the soft violin as a divining rod for locating old ghosts, while the accordion which brushes the main tune on in gentle dabs stays well out in front, never afraid, only yearning.

Ahma is said to combine Finnish folk, jazz improv and Argentinean tango into Maria's 3rd solo release, and the first cd for the great NorthSide label. Oh yes, the melodies are superb, almost multi-layered, needing more than one listen to hear everything going on behind the ears. 'Namas' itself takes traditional music further than the typical ballad, melting lush components together for a rich landscape of sounds that are of their own time. Not now. Not then. They are of a different definition of classical (music), a beauty to behold. Timo Alakotila's piano and Olli Varis' acoustic guitar are only several compartments into which your thinking mind will fall and try to fathom its way out.

They call her Queen of 5-Row Accordion. Maria's talent is obvious, but the mark of a Good queen is to surround herself with the best musicians the world has to offer. Already a good one, this would then have to make her Great.

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