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Dave Mihaly’s Shimmering Leaves Ensemble – Euro and Solo (2015) review

Dave Mihaly’s Shimmering Leaves Ensemble – Euro and Solo (Self-Released, 2015)

Mihaly is a multi-instrumental percussionist with San Francisco’s prog-psych jazzbos Mushroom and this is his third release leading the Shimmering Leaves Ensemble. On this recording, a new Ensemble includes occasional ‘shroomer Jon Birdsong (Beck, Beth Orton) on cornet and Belgian bassist Tim Coenen (Admiral Freebee). The album was recorded (mostly) in Antwerp on September 23, 2014 (Mihaly recorded a few solo tracks in San Fran on June 11, 2014 – hence the album title!), and begins with a lovely little relaxing oriental concoction, ‘T’ai’. A reflective thousand-yard-stare overcomes me while grooving to the late night shuffle of ‘Blues For Izu’, highlighted by Mihaly’s crystalline guitar lines and Birdsong’s dreamy cornet. Mihaly also eschews the six-string for the drum kit on a few tunes, the most effective is the sinewy, snake-charmer ‘Midnight Dance’.
The trio branch out in a poppier direction with the calypso-flavoured ‘A Midnight Train’ and ‘Everyday Is Labor Day’, a tongue-in-cheek smack in the face of Jerry Lewis’ past-its-sell-by-date telethon, a worthy cause that, sadly seems to have run its course. (Don’t blame Mihaly, he offers the tune “with utmost respect”.) ‘Altriciality’ is a $50 word that’s easier to listen to than pronounce, as one easily gets lost in Mihaly’s fluorescent vibes and scattershot drumming. It apparently has something to do with young animals who are unable to move around on their own immediately after birth, and Mihaly captures that straightjacket confinement with his minimalist-yet-alluring percussives.
If fairytales be to yer liking, then you’ll dig the Ensemble’s retelling of the origin of Antwerp, ‘Antigoon, Brabo, and The River’. Each instrument (drums, cornet, and guitar respectively) represents the meeting of the Flemish giant Antigoon (who guarded the river Scheldt by demanding tolls from all who requested passage; fare cheats had their hands cut off and tossed into the river) and the Roman soldier Brabo, who killed him and tossed his offending appendage into the drink. The Dutch phrase “hand werpen” (basically, “hand toss”) has morphed over the centuries into Antwerp. And thus ends our history lesson for the day.
A few tracks (‘Overboard’, the puzzling ‘Petaluma Chan Chan’, and the silly ‘Eyebrow’) are a bit too “out there” for my parochial tastes, (and while ‘Healing’ may have done just that for Mihaly, I don’t think the 21st century is ready to embrace drum solos just yet), but don’t let that curtail your enjoyment of this eclectic collection of pop, jazz, blues, with a slightly “Euro” flavor. Head over to Dave’s website and order yourself a copy.

Review made by Jeff Penczak/2015
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