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Experimental yet listenable

American Clave
American Clavé
By various artists

American Clavé: 1993

This review first appeared in the December 3, 1994 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

American Clavé is both the label and the vehicle of Kip Hanrahan, one of the most thoughtfully experimental musicians going today.

This compilation of his label's work shows just how eclectic Hanrahan's tastes are, and just how well he manages to convey them.

In addition to Hanrahan, who plays a little of everything, some of the artists featured range from '70s power rocker Jack Bruce on vocals and bass to Latin percussionist Milton Cardona to soul singer Bobby Womack to blues guitarist Taj Mahal to avant garde jazz pianist Don Pullen to New Orleans keyboardist Allen Toussaint, usually in some combination with each other.

As the above names suggest, Hanrahan has created a body of work that is the most imaginative and complete synthesis of different American traditions ever pulled together.

He's also recorded the Argentinian tango master Astor Piazzolla, who plays a bandoneon, or button accordion, and a large selection of that is featured here as well. (There is a boxed set of Piazzolla's three American Clavé albums also available.)

This collection proves that experimental music can still be listenable – as accessible and melodic as the most mainstream hits.