Take Five

No Strings Attached
Turquoise Records

Dulcimer Players, Winter 1989

The fearless and versatile No Strings Attached dulcimer band has released yet another recording that pushes at the very edges of what is expected of, or even thought possible for, the hammered dulcimer. Without exception the performances by members Randy Marchany, Bob Thomas, Pete Hastings and Wes Chapell are virtuosic, and the sound quality of this digitally mixed and mastered record is very high. The feeling of the cuts is jazzy and full of swing, with the title piece receiving a stellar rendition. I recommend this album heartily to dulcimer and jazz enthusiasts, even though I have two strong reservations about it.

First, at a total of 36:02 for both sides, Take Five is mighty, mighty brief. My experience as a record producer convinces me that the public is looking for longer music tapes, and I think that some purchasers may feel short-changed. Second, though Pete Hastings' harmonica playing is particularly fine, the inclusion of "Andalucia," performed by Pete on chromatic harmonica and Randy on piano, seems an odd choice to include on this recording and doesn't fit very well within the context of the larger ensemble pieces.

The instrumentation of Take Five includes hammered dulcimer, guitar, bass, flute, pennywhistle, mandolin, a very tastefully used synthesizer, and some amusing sound effects. My favorite selections are the two remarkable tunes which end side two: "March of the Picnic Ants," full of polyrhythms and much more interesting than most "New Age" type compositions, and "Cat Shoes," a waltzy minor tune featuring soulful flute playing by Wes, and not enough of Randy's original brand of hammered dulcimer playing.

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: