Notes and Editorial Reviews
Barbara Helfgott (vn); Rondo Vienna
PREISER 91211 (44:01)
I’m So Excited.
One Moment in Time.
I Will Survive.
Fly Me to the Moon.
There’s No Business Like Show Business.
Must Be Talking to An Angel.
You’re the One That I Want.
Time of My Life.
Thank You for the Music
This CD is the latest work released by Austrian violinist Barbara Helfgott and her all-string fusion band, Rondo Vienna. Helfgott’s brand of fusion, however, is different from the American style that got such a bad name among jazz lovers. Yes, it has a disco beat. Yes, these are jazz-fusion arrangements of popular rock/disco tunes (the familiar titles should give that away). But what they are
are stuck-in-the-same-groove, repetitious, uninteresting arrangements replete with whining electric violins and flabby-sounding rock guitars. There is not a single rock guitar on the entire CD, and some of the arrangements are spellbinding, as is Helfgott’s playing.
When one reads Helfgott’s biography on her website, the high quality of her playing and commitment to this music seem far less surprising. She was playing the violin before she could talk, studied with Günter Pichler of the Alban Berg Quartet and worked as concertmaster of several orchestras (among them the Vienna Court Opera and the Neue Oper Wien) before forming Rondo Vienna. Judging from the photos of her in action—including those on her website as well as a YouTube video—Helfgott uses a microphone for her violin but does NOT play an electric instrument nor use a bridge pickup, and neither do the members of Rondo Vienna.
As I said, this is jazz-fusion but with a difference. These arrangements contain a fair amount of counterpoint, cross-rhythms and plenty of improvisation from the leader. Moreover, I found it very interesting that Helfgott maintains a purely classical sound no matter how up-tempo the number. An unnamed singer whose voice sounds remarkably like Irene Cara opens
, but the notes don’t say whether this was a mix or not. I was less impressed with the ballad-type material, i.e.,
One Moment in Time
, which sounded to my ears too much like easy listening pop and not very inventive in the arrangement. There are also unidentified vocals on
I Will Survive
(that did not sound like Gloria Gaynor or Donna Summer),
Strong Enough, Must Be Talking to an Angel
Thank You for the Music. Fly Me to the Moon
is a nicely varied arrangement that unfortunately ends in a pedestrian and predictable manner.
There’s No Business Like Show Business
has, with the exception of the disco beat, a 1950s-sounding arrangement.
In the end, I came to appreciate Helfgott’s musicianship and her commitment to this music as well as the playing of her band, but did not come to like most of the tunes on this disc because I simply don’t like such simplistic song constructions. If, however, this kind of music is your thing,
will surprise you with the high quality of the playing here.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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