Rhythm & Views 

Aztec Two-Step

Without the benefit of a hit (their PBS documentary is entitled No Hit Wonder), this seemingly ageless folk duo has often been compared to Simon and Garfunkel. Still, who would have thought they'd have the interest or inclination to put a show together featuring almost 20 of Paul Simon's prized pieces? Fortunately, Aztec Two-Step's Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman successfully navigate the fine line that delineates imitation from interpretation.

Fowler and Shulman's strengths are in their harmony arrangements and execution, and in Shulman's way with the guitar. As such, this is very much an Aztec Two-Step recording, complete with Shulman's furious picking on the rockers ("A Hazy Shade of Winter," "Baby Driver") and his tasty, nuanced licks accentuating familiar chords on the "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" and "The Sound of Silence."

But more than a hit parade, this live set unfolds as a true retrospective, complete with narration (and great stories) from S&G biographer and noted New York DJ Pete Fornatale. In fact, two of the more affecting pieces--"April Come She Will" and "Bleeker Street"--are culled from the early days, the latter described by Fornatale as Simon at the height of his early creative powers. Also included is the trilogy of songs originally commissioned for The Graduate: "Punky's Dilemma" and "Mrs. Robinson," and an achingly beautiful rendition of "Overs."

It's no easy task breathing new life into old classics, but that's no big deal for these wily vets.

More by Jim Lipson


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