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Fumio Yasuda & Theo Bleckmann: Mother Goose’s Melodies

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Twenty-five years have passed since composer and vocalist Theo Bleckmann, otherworldly pied piper of the musical avant-garde, arrived in New York from his native Germany. Throughout that quarter-century, Bleckmann hasn’t merely redefined the art of eclecticism but turned it upside-down, inside-out and taken it to distant galaxies. His partnerships-Ben Monder, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Kirk Nurock, John Zorn, John Hollenbeck-read like a who’s who of fearless experimentation. His projects extend from examinations of the music of Kate Bush and Charles Ives, Berlin songs of the early 20th-century and Italy’s Arte Povera movement of the 1960s to bar songs, Las Vegas lounge acts and even an operatic appreciation of gangster Dutch Schultz. So it seems downright reasonable that Bleckmann would, in his fourth teaming with pianist Fumio Yasuda, devote an entire album to nursery rhymes.

Dotted with dynamic guest appearances by Hollenbeck, vocalist akimuse, vocalist and violinist Jo Lawry, reedist Bohdan Hilash, Drew Gress on bass and pedal steel guitar and Caleb Burhans and Rubin Kodheli on strings, Mother Goose’s Melodies, released in 2013, is a singularly fantastic voyage. Yet there’s tremendous sanity in Bleckmann’s seeming zaniness. Tracks as varied as his demonic “Three Blind Mice,” downy “Hush-a-Bye Baby,” noirish “Polly Wolly Doodle,” stratospheric “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and mechanized “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush” never, no matter how far out they travel, fail to brilliantly magnify Mother Goose’s sometimes sweet, occasionally monotonous, oft-times terrifying intent.

Originally Published