Don't be misled by the title of this German bassist's latest album. While the music does use old European folk tunes as a starting point, Ilg and company (pianist Benoit Delbecq, drummer Steve Aruelles, and guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel) in many cases transform the individual pieces into vehicles for high improvisation.
Ilg's approach to upright ranges from conventional to funky (by means of percussive effects that are usually more associated with electric bass). "ÁGuter Mond Du Gehst So Stille" begins with an infectious percussion-driven groove; Ilg's solo ripples with deft, well-intoned single-note phrases that are embellished with harmonics and funky double-stops. A far cry from its usual sing-songy nature, the haunting treatment of "Frere Jacques" features a unifying bass riff, dissonant piano harmonies and lines, and an understated melodic solo by the leader. Muthspiel opens "Der Mond Ist Aufgegangen" with some airy acoustic guitar work; the activity level gradually increases after the bass and drums enter, and then tapers off to a whisper. The remaining material, which incorporates everything from electronic-generated sounds to novel percussion, is equally beautiful. Conceptually clever and brilliantly realized, Folk Songs is as inventive and provocative as it is musical.