As an omnivorous critic who oft has a hard time with much of the World and New Age markets, shown in my lukewarm appraisal of the recent Luna Blanca CD (here), I'm always gratified when coming across someone who knows how to blend the best of several worlds without sacrificing too much of any of them, losing all sense of tradition or direction. Tomas Michaud is one of those who approaches the task quite adeptly. A large part of that goes to a very discreet choice of excellent sidemen/women and his own refined arrangement skills.
Polyrhythms co-exist quite comfortably in Michaud's work, weaving often complex layers of counterpoint blending Spanish, Carnatic, Baltic, and other sonorities in absorbing compositions crafting lush atmospheres. Most importantly, though, Michaud possesses a fine hand in playing flamenco guitar, neither over-simplifying the traditional sound nor reaching for pyrotechnics, achieving a soothing but invigorating balance. It doesn't hurt, either, that he chose Kai Eckhardt and David Margen for the bass duties, as these guys supply subtly vital accompaniment, underwriting the six-string work with nuanced variations.
Beauty and Fire is most definitely exactly what you'd hope to find on mellow, World, New Age, and similar radio airwaves: relaxing music with intelligence, craft, complexity, and attentiveness to what was so attractive in the original idioms. Think of Paul Winter just after Oregon split off to go its own chamber neoclassical way, and you'll be in the ballpark. Paul Horn and Herbie Mann were also adept at his, but Michaud and many of the moderns have taken steps beyond, slowly broadening the borders. Summer's over, but you still capture a slice of the balmy Mediterranean in Beauty and Fire to carry over into Fall.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles