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Billy Bang: Commandment (for the sculpture of Alain Kirilli)

Unaccompanied, violinist stands butt-naked in this live performance baring all the attributes that have adorned and disgusted many listeners. The visceral attacks, country-blues inflections and gutsy improvisations are all intact but so are the abrasive pizzicato and dubious intonation. Luckily, Bang’s gift for biting lyricism and emotional warmth is ever present, making tunes like, “‘Bama Swing” a roaring blues workout that jars both the mind and soul. He successfully conjures up images of both barnyard hoedown and cerebral loft jazz on “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” as he begins the classic by plucking the melody then unleashing teeth-gritting strumming where the melody splinters off into the stratosphere.

With the program geared towards Alain Kirilli’s oblique sculptures, it’s understandable why much of this performance opts for rhythmically challenging passages versus curvaceous contoured etchings. But despite such esoteric angularities, Commandment is a worthy listen.

Originally Published