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Guy Klucevsek: Tales from the Cryptic

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A first-rate player on an unusual instrument, Klucevsek has been the accordionist of choice for some time in New York’s experimental circles-but that probably isn’t saying a whole lot. Still, he’s made much of his time on the scene, participating in many notable projects, Dave Douglas’ Charms of the Night Sky Quartet probably the best known among them. Klucevsek occasionally strikes out on his own, usually in intimate small-group settings. He followed up his string of recordings for John Zorn’s Tzadik label with another few on Winter & Winter, and Tales From the Cryptic is his latest.

On Tales, Klucevsek duets with another creative outsider, composer/reedist Phillip Johnston. Johnston, who’s made his name as a leader of bands like Big Trouble and the Microscopic Septet. Johnston gives some lift to the music with his bright, confidant playing, a touch of the blues and his klezmerlike lilt, but it’s Klucevsek’s dolorous accordion and old-world art songs that set the tone here. The two players stroll through winsome ballads, spirited dances and dark, carnivalesque themes while claiming liberties and creative detours that hardly jeopardize the balance of these modestly scaled pieces. They jump in and out of structured passages with grace, inject the music with tartness and just as convincingly (and with only the slightest hints of tongue-in-cheek) navigate the sweetest of melodies.