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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Ne­dudim Fifth House Ensem­ble & Bal­adino Cedille Records

Cross-cul­tural mu­sic col­lab­o­ra­tions can be hi­tor-miss af­fairs. Those that suc­ceed tend to meld what’s unique about each with com­mon de­nom­i­na­tors, thus elim­i­nat­ing the band-aid joints that im­pair so many fu­sion ven­tures. That’s pal­pa­bly true with Ne­dudim, an al­bum that brings to­gether an ac­claimed US cham­ber group and an Is­raeli folk band in what can be pro­saically de­scribed as con­tem­po­rary clas­si­cal meets world mu­sic. The core fo­cus is Ladino, a cen­turies-old Sephardic/Judeo-Span­ish tra­di­tion that is Bal­adino’s spe­cial­ity. True to its title (He­brew for wan­der­ings), this ex­ploratory en­ter­prise takes in­spi­ra­tion from clas­si­cal In­dian mu­sic and Amer­i­can and Mid­dle Eastern folk, while mix­ing and match­ing West­ern or­ches­tral and ex­otic Asian and Ara­bic in­stru­men­ta­tion. New works, writ­ten for the col­lab­o­ra­tion by Fifth House Ensem­ble’s res­i­dent com­poser, are based on both col­lec­tives’ shared mem­o­ries.

One of the set’s bluesy rides com­bines writ­ten and im­pro­vised so­los played over Dan Vis­conti’s orig­i­nal score. An­other em­ploys an­cient Hel­lenic scales, with oboe, clar­inet, bas­soon and flutes gen­er­at­ing melody, har­mony and rhythm. Vis­conti’s most avant-garde ar­range­ment places didgeri­doo-un­der­pinned in­stru­men­tal pas­sages be­tween haunt­ing Ladino lul­laby verses. The pris­tine voice of Bal­adino’s Yael Badash plays a more cen­tral role in strik­ing open­ing and clos­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Ladino bal­lads, while her vo­cal agility is salient in the al­bum’s two tra­di­tional Sephardic cor­ner­stone tracks.

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