World music wasn't the thing at the time, not entirely, but one day in 1974 there came to my college radio station (WRCM, Manhattan College; a glorified PA system at that time, regrettably) an LP by Michal Urbaniak's Fusion. Rough-edged, frenetic, tuneful and possessive of any number of lengthy melodic lines, Fusion's first American release ATMA was as good a world-jazz recording as we could find in those days. TWO SIBERIANS is a lot of fun too; of course we're 'hipper' now so Messrs. Yakushenko's and Matveyev's furious guitar/violin humoresques don't have the effect of the new that Urbaniak's did. But it's still pretty damn amazing. Unison lines are not welcome here, apparently; there are any number of occasions when the attack and decay of the two lead players' melodies complement and contrast to a dizzying level ("Searching for Power" one example of many) The CD's mixdown is bright and clear, the special guests (Michael Brecker, Richard Bona, Mino Cinelu, etc.) don't overly intrude, and the structures utilized are enlightening. It's funny I didn't see it before, really: a long while ago I noticed similar underpinnings between Irish/Gaelic and Scandinavian folk forms. The latter are more complex and had less of a 'lilting' feel to them. The melodies we hear on TWO SIBERIANS are a step further into sophistication (especially "Outpost Radio," "Amoroso" and the delightfully rollicking "Vodka Tales." (Incidentally, I believe that to 'lilt' and to 'rollick' are a difference of degree, but don't let me speculate further on that one...). But the base forms seem interestingly similar between the three genres. Just wish I knew how to put it in more technical terms. Sorry, folks, I only review these things because I like them. Not because I know what I'm talking about!
This twosome from the Irkutsk region of the Russian Federation know what to do with the tools they're handed: the odd Cuban accents of "Natasha Havana" are even a laugh. Michael Brecker, he of the thoroughly mainstream tenor sax, does know what he can and can't do in this milieu: he adds a fleet counterline to "Allergic to Gravity" and a similar filigree with the EWI on "Indigo Breeze." Matveyev spends most of his very fruitful time on the acoustic, and Yakushenko whips from long skirling bowed line to pizzicato and back again; in a word, exhilarating.
I suppose if I had a complaint, and I really don't, it would be the machine sheen of the final product. I think there were times that the CD's sense of 'everything in its right place' may have got me half-wishing for a blown note or a misstep. But do we want that from the Moscow Symphony? So why would we want that from the Two Siberians? Probably that's my preference for improvised music. Well, don't let my prejudices stop you. This CD is one barreling freight train, and the ride's highly worth taking.
by Kenneth Egbert