Andromeda4
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Andromeda4

Band Americana Jazz

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Radio and television too often seem to ignore hidden treasures in the world of lyric-less music. Orchestral, jazz, flamenco, tango, etc. are some of the gems that any true music infatuate appreciates but cannot often find a steady source of. Who doesn't enjoy an emotional Miles Davis tune, or the flowing Fifth Symphony from Beethoven, or perhaps the Danny Elfman score for Edward Scissorhands? The recipe for Andromeda must have been to build on the roots of these types of compositions and create something that is both faithful and fresh.

At first listen, I was caught by surprise when Andromeda's "Norwegian Slip" began. I always tend to put on the music before reading the band biography, and the name Andromeda probably had me thinking I might expect some synth-techno rock. That notion was abandoned with haste as my ears went on a country/classical pilgrimage that was way overdue. The architecture of the piece allows every instrument to shine while others back it with supportive harmony. While the counterpoint is classically based, the accompaniment (upright bass, violin, mandolin, accordion, etc.)represents Americana, country, and folk stylings. The return later in the song to former motifs is both radiant and wise, as it returns the listener to points of recognition. These four musicians are obviously versed in their craft, as one can easily hear from the tone of the instruments to the progression the song routes.

The second song on Andromeda's press kit is titled "Coach". This tune eases in with a subtle guitar progression that holds down the concept of the piece while other instruments express the foreground emotional work. The song changes keys, often with a crescendo in volume, which is both technically catchy to the ear as well passionate to the heart. Even though it lies near the bottom of the mix EQ-wise, the upright bass is a major factor, illustrating the major/minor flow with solidity as well as gentleness. The charm and allure of this band is either too describable or not describable at all. What I mean by this is that one could easily sit here for days and write out every synonym, expression, and conclusion about the varying aspects of this song, studying it under a fine microscope with musical theory and thought. On the other hand, one can easily say the music is " indescribable", and just let the incomparable enjoyment you feel when listening to it spread to others whom you share it with. Being that I'm writing an article, it's my job to describe, but I feel the second option is by far a better concept to grasp the magic of this music.

The final song on the press kit, "Jigsaw", is a change from what the other two offer, yet it contains the same mystique and gravitation of the band's other work. After looking on the band's website (www.evanharlan.com), one can see that this song is off a recording in 2002, but it still is a sturdy representation of these musicians’s work. I am deeply drawn to the dark organ type qualities of the accordion instrumentation. The song is open to endless representations, as I envisioned it as both a riveting ballroom dance tune as well as a cinematic movie-ready sound track. Another facet of the song that enhances its unique design is the addition of a guitar solo with wah effects. This adds a psychedelic vibe to the piece, allowing the song to venture to areas you never thought it was going. The song concludes with a fantastic cadence that caught me off guard and left me wanting another listen.

So what's my final thought on Andromeda? Well first off, they've re-ignited my love for classical music. Looking back on the songs I have just listened to, it is outright impossible to pick a favorite. These four individuals have really created something so far beyond anyone's expectation of music in today's world that it may just start a revolution for new listeners to enjoy the jazz/classical/Americana genres that have been collecting dust. When people describe music as a representation of the soul, I must imagine that they HAVE to be talking about tunes the likes of Andromeda's. This just proves that through dedication, heart, and study of the craft, musicians can relate to all the meaning and emotion in life through their instruments (and even without lyrics!). It is obvious that Andromeda knows what drives them; So why don't you let Andromeda's music drive you?
- Daniel Lavagna, Northeast In Tune Magazine, Sept. 2005


The music starts with a sharp force. And then a dancing Irish jig in 9/8 takes over. Almost like someone put on a Celtic barn dance. Incidentally, the style is very authentic... ...or what? Because before you know it the tune goes unexpected ways, that a country fiddler would never have thought of. Add to that polyrhythms, ornaments and blue jazz notes. By the end, going out of the style has become legendary. But at the same time uniquely persuasive, which is what Leonard Bernstein said made the whole difference. However you go about doing that! This is Andromeda's charm in a nutshell. New wine in an old barrell, where the flow is either expected or unexpected. And perhaps the charm can also be defined as coming from unbelievably many different stylistic directions. Almost every one of the twelve tunes could be from a different direction, from as many different bands. Nevertheless everything stays friendly, thoughtful, cogent, polished and well done, after endless concerts, until only the best of it is left standing.

Yet, Andromeda is only three years old, located in Boston in New England, and includes one Icelander, Íma Þöll Jónsdóttir violinist. They played at Ýmir in Jan. 2003 to great acclaim, and on this CD you can hear some of the tune they played there. For example the first one Norwegian Slip, where you can hear Jarret influences take over. Also the next one on the CD, ambiguously called the Coach, complete genius by Evan Harlan in a broadened passacaglia form, to a slow and amazingly beautiful elf woman waltz beat, that doesn't leave anyone untouched. And without dragging it out. Here like everywhere else, the content always seems diligently worked on and arranged, so that the balance between the expected and the unexpected doesn't go away - like the most expensive wine art. The polished and impeccable playing, which is very well recorded, actually brings to mind classical chamber music. I had a very difficult time putting a label on Andromeda´s music last year, and the same happened now. The leader of the group, Evan Harlan, helps with this in the CD liner notes where he mentions Appalachian, Balkan, Tango, Jazz, Classic, Rock etc., and most likely you can hear other influences as well. One could look at this CD as a contribution to a very wide group of listeners, even though not everything on it is easy listening the first time around.

Some people might have wished for more blood, sweat and tears in the playing, if not more energy and virtuosity. However, it is a long time since I have heard a CD other than the great masters, that should age as well as this one. - Morgunbladid, Reykjavik, Iceland



To describe Andromeda’s music as “world music”, is only in despair, because that diverse genre is nowhere nearly enough to define the group’s music. Even though it had influences from folk music and jazz, and had some heavy jazz improv influences, the music was so written out and organized, that western artmusic from the early part of the last century came to mind.

The first number, “New Digs” by Larrabee and “Hunky Dory” by Harlan, had up-beat influences from American folk dances, Balkan dances, and bluesy jazz. The next four tunes were by Harlan. “October” was a slow surreal cabaret-waltz in the spirit of Nino Rota. “Slipstream/Barber Shop”, the longest number of the night, started with a tantalizing Irish jig in 9/8(3-3-3), and soon led to the Greek meter 3-2-2-2, and lasted for 17 minutes, stopping by a 5/5 Bulgarian Copenitsa meter and a contemporary jazz guitar solo. The dreamy Coach, was on the other hand short but was an irresistibly charming Celtic ballad in a slow 6/8 jig meter. “Ratchenitsa for Robby “(Larrabee), beamed of a nimble 7/8 meter Bulgarian weddingdance feel. The slow Memoir by Harlan opened with an introvert guitar solo intro, including the Icelandic Krummi Svaf í Klettagjá, before the other instruments joined in one by one, in a meter feel that reminded me of the somber milonga from Buenos Aires. First half ended with the very fun Jigsaw, where solo sections were combined with a very free but well arranged rondo form, in between ensemble grooves in 10/8 and 7/8; all driven by determination and flawless ensemble playing.

Of the four numbers after intermission, “Homage 1 & 2- Rondeaoughx” by Harlan was the most mindful but yet passive, where one could hear influences from Bartok and Shostakovitch. “Norwegian Slip” by Larrabee, turned from a jig to a supple jazzwaltz, and ended with more grace than any of the other numbers with a high pitched plunge. Harlan’s arrangement of the popular American composer Corigliano’s “Waltz-Adagio-Tarantella”, was both playful and bleeding with melody, and like most things before it, had an outstanding execution. The group’s final number, Balkan Dances, started with Íma´s sobbing shepherd violin in a serene morning glory, but soon everything was going so full speed, that I haven’t heard anything like it since the saga of “Rammislagur Bósa” whirled cups and saucers around, or maybe since the wedding party/reception of “Villi the chef and Dómhildur” (referrals to Icelandic literature). This called for an encore, which was Harlan’s honoring of Astor Piazolla, a hot blooded tango nuevo.

It is safe to say that this was a fiery performance. Unlike much of the European world music, and contemporary jazz, this music never became boring, and had an above and beyond message for the regular listener. Not only because of the unusual diversity, but also because of the well thought out dispositionis, like baroque theorists would call it – determined organization that went extremely well with the eclectic blend of musical styles. After only having played together for two years, Andromeda has clearly stumbled upon a magic stone, which should offer endless possibilities.
- Morgunbladid, Reykjavik, Iceland



- Terry Byrne, Cambridge Chronicle


Discography


Andromeda4 - 2002

The Reach - 2004

Photos

Bio

Andromeda4 won the Song - World/Fusion category in the 2006 Independent Music Awards for the song Norwegian Slip. And our tune Coach was also a finalist in the Americana category.

Andromeda4 performs with classical precision and the improvisational spirit of jazz; their original music (composed by Mr. Harlan and Mr. Larrabee) has the flavors of americana, gypsy and tango, among others. The listening experience is friendly, pulling the audience in with lively and evocative tunes and grooves. Their performances move freely between serious art music and playful culture-bending tunes.

Andromeda4's members have performed throughout the world and in some of the most prestigious venues/festivals. The various artists and ensembles with whom they have appeared include: Luciano Pavarotti, Björk, Bruce Hornsby, Dave Douglas, Bela Fleck, Dave Holland, and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. These and other groups have taken them to the Tonight Show w/Jay Leno, the MTV Music Awards, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, Place d'Arts in Montreal, and the Sydney Opera House. Andromeda4 themselves have played numerous venues, including world, jazz, folk and rock clubs in New York City and Boston such as the Tribeca Rock Club, Johnny D's and Club Passim. They have also played in concert halls in Europe and the Northeastern United States, as well as at outdoor festivals such as the NEMO Music Festival in Boston, MA. Andromeda4 has organized house concerts in the Boston area since 2001, and in 2003 they were the house band for the run of Snow in June at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA.

BAND MEMBERS:

Evan Harlan (accordion, composer) has recorded and performed internationally with several jazz and "world music" ensembles including Dave Douglas, the Klezmer Conservatory Band and the Von Trapp Singers. His own quartet, Andromeda,  was the house band for the American Repertory Theater's production of Snow in June in 2003. From 1995-2000, Mr. Harlan's group Excelsior played unorthodox arrangements of 20th century composers' works. Their CD Declassified was featured on WGBH radio's internationally distributed Art of the States, WGBH/BBC's The World, WBUR's The Connection and Here & Now. Mr. Harlan is the recipient of a 2001 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant in Music Composition; he has scored numerous works for film, dance and theater. In addition he has played on the soundtracks of Sidney Lumet's A Stranger Among Us, and John Sayles' Lone Star. In 2001 he performed in the orchestra with Luciano Pavarotti at the Fleet Center in Boston, and has been featured in Hovanhess' Rubaiyat and Hindemith's Kammermusik 1.

Andrew Blickenderfer (acoustic bass) has performed with a variety of ensembles for CDs, soundtracks, radio, clubs, and concert halls across North America.  His work often explores the crossroads of traditional music from around the world with improvisational, jazz, and classical music forms. In addition to his fine bass work with Andromeda, he plays cello, violin, mandolin, and percussion with the quintet HourGlass. When he and his family are not tripping over the eleven instruments in the house, Mr. Blickenderfer studies tabla and enjoys teaching.

Íma Jonsdottir (violin) has toured the world with pop artist and fellow Icelander Björk; with her she has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the MTV Music Awards and the Montreaux Jazz Festival. She has also toured with bassist/composer Mark Dresser, as well as with the Iceland Symhpony Orchestra which brought her to Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. Although being classically trained, Íma ventured into the world of ethnic musics and improvisation as a graduate student at the New England Conservatory of Music, and she now enjoys bringing all those worlds together in her own playing style. Ms. Jonsdottir teaches and performs in the Boston area, with groups such as the Klezmer Conservatory Band, Andromeda4 and The Know Trio.

Adam Larrabee (banjo, guitar, mandolin, composer) has performed or recorded with many of the greats of pop and jazz including Bruce Hornsby, Dave Holland,  and Larry Goldings.  His credits also include work with classical mandolin virtuoso Evan Marshall and banjo phenomenon  Bela Fleck.  His  jazz duo CD with Dave Zoffer Courage in Closeness: Live in Boston  was voted one of the year's top-ten albums in 2000 by the Tucson Citizen. Mr. Larrabee's enormous stylistic range extends to his composing career, which has included every different ensemble texture from classical chamber music to jazz big band. Mr. Larrabee teaches jazz theory and composition at the New England Conservatory in Boston.