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The Red Light of Evening - Reviews

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The Red Light of Evening by KGB is beautifully played, eminently danceable, and exquisitely recorded and mixed. As someone who hears a lot of waltzes, I especially enjoy hearing the composers playing their own tunes -- so that's a special treat on this album. Of course, with Dave Bartley tunes you have to expect the unexpected -- and so there's a good variety of styles, moods and tempos in this collection. One benefit of the beautiful recording and mixing is that you can really hear the interplay between these three marvelous musicians. There's lots going on, but it's very tastefully layered, which makes these fun to listen and to dance to.

- Bill Matthiesen, The Waltz Book

For those of us who have loved KGB's waltzes their new Waltz CD has been much awaited. Now just released this CD did more than just please — it is filled with extraordinary waltzes — a true delight. For dancers it offers variety in tempos and feel from soulful sweet slow tunes to light lilting faster pieces even to those with a classic Viennese quality. What is amazing is not just the variety, and fine musicianship but how many of these tunes are just absolutely beautiful — a heart experience for the dancer and listener alike.

- Lilli Ann Carey, Dance for Joy!

KGB's latest CD "The Red Light of Evening" is another in their series of audio beauties.  Being a collection of waltzes, this one was guaranteed to touch the heart and it surely did.  For a first listen, I highly recommend laying on a cozy couch cuddled up with a cat and/or dog.  Turn off the phone and let your mind and heart wander with the music, a true balm for the soul during these troubling times.

This trio plays so darned well together, each one of them so musical and their musical stew getting more delicious over time.  The instruments seem to sing the music, leaving the listener to fill in the words.  Julie's piano so responsively supports the melodies and then soars when she's out in front.  Her compositions are so very lovely.  I've always been partial to Claude's tender touch on violin and these waltzes show that off to great advantage.   Dave Bartley's compositions and playing reflect the seasoned pro he is and what a treat to hear his wife Mary on accordion.  I especially appreciate that Dave keeps his pieces uncluttered which allows the listener to enjoy the musical phrases which come around numerous times.  He also composes understanding the trio's strengths making these pieces sound deceptively simple.

I love the more traditional waltzes beyond words, yet found "Waiting for the Green" (track 14) to be extremely interesting.  Per the liner notes, it was inspired by the color of the lowest level of American terrorism alert.  Typically taking nature as his compositional inspiration, I urge Dave to continue to explore politics as a muse.  This piece was on another level of sophistication and makes me think it's time for Dave to write something symphonic.

The one and only thing I would change is to end the CD with Julie playing the air, "To the Edge," alone.  "Waiting for the Green" was profound and my head was full.  Though Claude played the air gorgeously, my ear craved a rest.  Julie playing alone would have provided that, as well as a symbol that ultimately we are all alone in the face of things we cannot control.

The mixing and mastering could not be any better. The CD booklet is crisp, modern yet homey - like the music.   The song descriptions not self-indulgent or overly wordy, but personal.  The photo of KGB is charming as it could be, not surprising as it was taken by Paul Bestock, a Seattle photographer who has a way of catching something essential in people's personalities. 

The entire package is unpretentious, professional, warm and a real joy.

- Mary Sherhart,, December 15, 2008


KGB is a trio from Seattle that plays music for contra dances, English country dances, and couple dances. If you're in the SF bay area, you should come and hear them live this Saturday, the 10th. They'll be playing at the Oakland Friday Night Waltz (yes, on Saturday) and doing a mix of contra dances and couple dances. It'll be great. Most of their albums have a lot of contra dance music on them (which is great), but they also just recently released a new CD with a solid hour of original waltz music: The Red Light of Evening. It's a lovely album, with a nice range of tempos for different types of waltzes. Richard Powers played a couple of them at FNW in December, though I don't recall which ones. These are some of my favorites after my first listen:

Speak of the Deverills - Rotary waltz, 162 bpm
I like the way this one slides between different moods.
A Field of Shooting Stars - Cross-step waltz, 126 bpm
Might be good to slow this one down a tad, though I haven't tried actually dancing it yet.
Birdsong Spring - Rotary waltz / Redowa, 165 bpm
This one really does spring along in a very birdlike way in places. It would probably be fun to redowa to.
The Clock Stopped - Cross-step waltz, 112 bpm
This one is actually on their "Contra-Intelligence" album, but it's worth including here as long as we're talking about KGB waltzes. If you go to FNW around here, this is the tune that's always played for the cross-step mixer.

Update: The dance on Saturday was fantastic. If you ever get a chance to dance to KGB, take it.

- Graham Waldon

From Green Man Review:


KGB is a Seattle-area contradance trio featuring Julie King on piano, Claude Ginsburg on violin, concertina and viola, and Dave Bartley on guitar, mandolin and cittern. They're a very popular band in a region full of top-notch contradance bands, and their CDs demonstrate why. They're not flashy, but good, solid, melodic and rhythmic dance music performers. For their fourth CD -- all on their own Mole label -- they've done an album of waltzes.

If that sounds as though it could be tedious, fear not. There's plenty of variety, in style and arrangement, to keep things interesting through 15 tunes, all penned by band members. It starts with the lovely "Sunny Day" on piano, guitar and fiddle, followed by "Flathead Lake," featuring mandolin on the melody and lovely throaty viola. The fast English-style tune "Speak of the Deverills" has lots of jazzy blue notes on cittern. "February/Just In Time" has a bit of a newgrass feel to it; Bartley plays some lovely classical guitar on "Broken Chair," backed by eerie squeals from the edge of Ginsburg's violin bow. "Wilderness Waltz" is a sprightly country waltz that briefly dips into a minor key. "Gracia/Claude's Waltz" is a Latin-tinged set of uptempo tunes. The cool Scandinavian sonorities of "Waiting for Green" sound like winter waiting for spring, but Bartley says what he had in mind was the "lowest level of American terrorism alert."

And, since every regular contradance set traditionally ends with a waltz, this set of waltzes ends with ... an air, King's lovely Celtic-themed "To the Edge," led by Ginsburg's emotive fiddle.

KGB's The Red Light of Evening is a superb addition to the CD collection of anyone who enjoys contradance music, or just a good waltz.

- Gary Whitehouse