(AP) — For more than half a century, Corky Siegel has brought new colors to the blues. “MORE Different Voices” is the composer/arranger’s latest attempt to bridge musical genres and cultural divides, making the world slightly smaller and kinder.
Siegel has long favored classic flavors, and here he pairs his distinctive harmonica work with a string quartet, the result akin to a collaboration between Big Bill Broonzy and Borodin. Kalyan Pathak’s tabla and a parade of guests make stylistic boundaries even more elastic. Not everything works out, and at least a few cuts go on too long, but Siegel’s adventurous approach challenges the idea that the blues is a formula.
“Hine Ma Tov Blues” quotes “Mannish Boy” while featuring an even older Jewish melody. “Joyful Jambalaya” is an instrumental jam with quivering strings and a gonzo harp solo. Even the 12-bar blues form becomes unpredictable on “Twisted” when the strings sound as if they could launch into Beethoven’s “Grosse Fugue.”
Throughout, Siegel keeps us guessing what’s next. Tracy Nelson sings a powerful rendition of her piano ballad “Down So Low,” and even 45 minutes into the album, it’s something of a surprise when the classical strings come into play.
They sound good. Break the news to Tchaikovsky.