Rhythm & Views

Molehill Orkestrah

Tucson's wonderful Molehill Orkestrah makes a mountain of music with origins varying from the Middle East to the Balkans, from the Mediterranean and the gypsy diaspora.

On its third full-length CD, the septet proves what a small, and joyous, musical world we live in, performing original compositions, as well as mutated versions of traditionals from Turkey and Cuba. As usual, violinist Risha Druckman and cellist Mona Chambers escort the band--they wrote many of the tunes--through the melodies, but much room is made for Cliff Kuhn's guitar and bouzouki and the propulsive rhythms of drummer Chris Kallini.

Nobody ever said Molehill Orkestrah are purists. Mandolinist Michael Dalzell's delicate "Dance With a Stranger" has the dark overtones of a café lament, but its rich pan-European melody could come from any number of countries. It's luxurious and beautiful, and it sounds completely contemporary.

There's a touch of klezmer meeting the American West in "Red River," with Red Army Band-style horns and folk-rock guitar-picking. The sexy, slithering Latin rhythms of "Taboo," "Vino Blanco" and "La Cumparsita" are fully engaging and impossible to resist.

Closing the album is the lurching, zany swing of "Wet Dog," in which group member Tony Rosano is joined by his brothers to create a neo-Dixieland romp that is all character and color. It's enough fun that you'll be sad when it ends.