Joe Craven Trio Explodes Genres

All Four One
Blender Logic Arts 005

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Everything about The Joe Craven Trio confounds. First of all, it’s only a trio if you don’t count Craven himself, which would be a huge mistake for such a demon mandolin player, fiddler, and arts activist. Second of all, those instruments plus the accordion hefted by band mate Rick Kuhns would lead the uninitiated to think this is a bluegrass band, which it most assuredly is not. Third, iTunes seems to think it belongs in a category called “Easy Listening,” which in my mind is associated with music playing in the background when you water your ferns, and Craven’s music isn’t that either. So what is it, exactly?

Let me dissemble just a bit more. The picture of Craven on the back of the CD has him wearing a very loud shirt and sporting a beret to which he has Photoshoped a dangling tassel. This is typical of his wit and, I suspect, his total disregard for genres. If one must apply one, small combo jazz fits the bill for much of it, though Craven insists his music is a mash of his various influences: Thelonious Monk, Django Reinhardt, Lester Young, The Monkees, Flatt and Scruggs, and Michael Jackson. Say what? Don’t look for keyboardist John Burr to help out; the opening track “Up with the Crackadons” has organ riffs worthy of Booker T. Jones, and percussionist Kendrick Freeman lays down classic snare drum jazz rhythms and Craven rips off some mando lines that dance and swoon. That’s followed by “Forrocious,” with slightly atonal accordion and the feel of a Parisian café habituated by surrealists. Then a barrelhouse piano opening for Craven’s whimsical song “Get Off It!” a piece that’s somewhere between Spike Milligan and Spike Jones. You get the picture. Don’t label it; just give it a listen. It’s smart, exciting, and it would plow down a fern that got in its way.--Rob Weir

Watch Craven and his band work in and through several grooves on this extended video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73oyhKK97KI

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