MAY MONDAYKaren Tweed and Timo Alakotila
Reviews and track previews from May Monday
“Piano accordionist Karen Tweed and Finnish pianist Timo Alakotila have developed an uncanny intuitional understanding of each others’ musical thought processes. It’s not due to the amount they have worked together,it’s something much less tangible-a total meeting of creative musical minds”.
“A collection of mostly new compositions in the Irish and Swedish folk traditions. The pieces are centered around Karen Tweed’s piano accordian and Timo Alakotila’s classically-influenced piano playing, but around half of the tracks also feature a chamber group made up of a second accordian, guitar, flugelhorn and strings. The accordian playing is intricate but relaxed, the seamless long melodic lines superb. Although it’s using a different musical tradition, the approach reminds me of Gideon Kramer’s chamber renditions of Piazzolla’s tangos on Hommage a Piazzolla. Highly recommended, even for those (like me) not normally attracted to folk music”.
‘May Monday’ is a mind-blowing mix (with not a synth in sight!) of English, Irish and Scandinavian traditional material arranged by Tweed and Alakotila and compositions by the likes of Andy Cutting, Sarah Allen, Chris Wood, Ian Lowthian and Tweed herself. It is superbly produced by Olli Varis. There are elements of jazz and sometimes the sound is almost symphonic. The quality of the ensemble playing is exceptional, and the empathetic interplay of Tweed and Alakotila is reminiscent of the electricity which arcs between Hayes and Cahill or Wood and Cutting in performance. “May Monday” is folk music which needn’t touch its forelock to anything the classical mob can put up; it’s genuine art-music performed by a virtuoso at the height of her powers.
This record of duets featuring accordion and piano is a sublime mix of English and Swedish folk songs. Playing with confidence and sensitivity, Tweed and Alakotila’s chemistry manages to transcend “jazz,” “world” or “new music” genres. By organically fusing these styles, their music ought to satisfy fans of Eastern European-influenced jazz, as well as folk purists. At times thoughtful and humorous, most songs are medleys of both traditional and original compositions, with Tweed’s sprightly accordion work and ornamented melodic style, a decidedly Celtic influence is at the core of most tunes. The album is taken up a notch when Tweed and Alakotila are joined by another accordionist, an acoustic guitarist and a mystical sounding trumpeter. Despite the absence of low-end instrumentation, the lush textures never miss the addition of bass or drums, their energetic arrangements carry on until the closing track, “Riverside Aby,” when beautiful string arrangements accompany the relaxed duo. (Northside)