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Terem Quartet: No, Russia Cannot Be Perceived By Wit

If you’ve heard of the Terem Quartet, you probably have popster and world-music peddler Peter Gabriel to thank. In the early ’90s, Gabriel signed this Russian modern-folk foursome to his Real World label. Almost a decade on, the quartet returns with its third recording, No, Russia Cannot Be Perceived by Wit, an album of folk melodies and dances treated with a broad, classical approach. Once Terem rounds out the CD with three classical pieces, including Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” it makes perfect sense.

Nevertheless, Wit is hardly a stiff affair. The quartet digs manic tempos, rallies around memorable melodies and plays with nuance and great facility. They occasionally throw in an oddball passage for humor, and they have a weakness for open-hearted romanticism and melodrama that flirts with the maudlin when left unchecked-which is most of the time. In other words, not terribly different from what one would expect from a Russian outfit such as this.

Jazz fans take note: Wit is not a jazz album even in the loosest sense. The three plectrists do not improvise and neither does the accordion player; they hardly even acknowledge American music. Nevertheless, if a charming, occasionally goofy Euro-cafe soundtrack sounds good to you, Terem Quartet just might be your boys.

Originally Published