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*** 1/2 THE MAYA BEISER / STEVEN SCHICK PROJECT, "Caught by the Sky With Wires," oo discs

February 04, 2001|JOSEF WOODARD

Mathematically, they are just a pair, but this is much more than just a traditional duo, warranting its grander title, the Maya Beiser/Steven Schick Project. Cellist Beiser and percussionist Schick, both members of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, have an abiding, empathetic hook-up. Each musician extends instrumental conventions, engages in a constant idiomatic push-pull and freely switches foreground and supportive roles, making for one of the more exciting and distinctive projects on the new music landscape.

With his range of percussion colors and rhythmic impetus, Schick falls easily into the extra-classical avenues of rock and world music. Perhaps more surprisingly, so does Beiser, who happily transforms the cello into an electric guitar-like voice and other ethnic sonorities.

This makes her a ripe foil for the roiling and wry title composition, written by composer-electric guitarist Nick Didkovsky. From non-Western corners come the percolating exoticism of Jack Brody's "Gada Yina African" and the sensuous introspection of the Azerbaijan-based composer Franghis Ali-Zade's "Habil-Sajahy." We also hear music by composers from UC San Diego, Schick's academic home: Chinary Ung's beguiling, Cambodian-inflected "Grand Alap (A Window in the Sky)" and George Lewis' "Northstar Boogaloo," fortified with rhythms and fragmented sounds of the inner city. The core mission is to venture musically out into the world, while building on their own creative world of sound. Mission accomplished.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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