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Chango Spasiuk: Sophisticated Accordion

During the colonial era, northern Europeans took accordions all over the world. Ever since, folky wedding dances like the polka have been interbreeding with indigenous music styles in faraway lands. South America has produced some of the most elaborate examples, but even in that context, Chango Spasiuk stands out for his verve and virtuosity.

In "La Ratonera," Spasiuk revs the spirit of a European, oompah-pah waltz into a cantering 12/8 feel. That's a feature of a style called chamamé, which Spasiuk grew up with in Argentina's rural northeast. These days, he makes his home in Buenos Aires, where he composes for and performs with an ensemble that includes violin, guitar, double bass and percussion.

Music history is full of exceptional musicians who, like Spasiuk, take lowbrow music from the countryside and transform it into sophisticated urbanite fare. Spasiuk subtitles his CD "memories of a barefoot childhood," and as much as the colors of jazz and classical music emerge in his sound, that rugged, rural past always shines through.

Pynandi Los Descalzos includes a semi-classical suite; a lonely, romantic vocal number; and a few bracing duo performances. The standout track might be the opener, "Tierra Colorada" — or "Red Earth." This original composition sums up the spirit of Spasiuk's whole endeavor. He and his musicians dig in with passion and gusto as pastoral reverie and cosmopolitan panache joyfully become one.

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Banning Eyre