STriCat / rats & gentle people

Review by Keith Wolzinger

type was only slightly murdered in making this cover

STriCat / rats & gentle people
Karnatic Lab Records, KLR 012, 2007
CD available from Karnatic Lab Records

A fresh approach to music is always a good thing, and STriCat is a shining example of what can happen when the constraints of musical expression are removed. At first blush, the band’s composition of Trumpet, Accordion, and Cymbalom would seem somewhat unlikely, but any reservations are overcome once you hear them. The result is some of the most unique music that I have heard.

The music is truly original, with each of the band members contributing original compositions. In fact, the band is listed as the Producer on the album credits. So, these guys show a level of commitment not often seen today. Composing, arranging, performing, producing. They do it all.

But what does the music sound like, you ask? They put out a lot of music for being a trio. I would describe the sound this way: relating to a jazz combo, think of the Trumpet as, well, the Trumpet; think of the Accordion as the Tenor Sax; think of the Cymbalom as the rhythm section. It’s an uncanny combination. Levelt (Trumpet) and van Tol (Accordion) to me sound like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The parts fit exactly the way they should, and the harmonies are there, too. Vink (Cymbalom) really drives the group, and sets the style whether it be swing, Bebop, a fast Balkan Sirba, or a slow Hora.

The opening track, "Driving Madness" is an American-style contemporary big band tune. It has a great melody, excellent Trumpet break/solo, and even an a capella shout chorus. It serves to whet the appetite for all that follows on the album.

"Lay Dee “p”" is a slower solo by Trumpeter Levelt with Accordion accompaniment. It is the shortest track, but shows the introspective side of the group.

"Asphalt," my favorite track, could be the title track for the album. With a strong Bebop influence, the combination of muted Trumpet with Accordion works well and shows that you can really swing on any instrument! I like the a capella coda, too.

"Toni" is the most Balkan styled tune. While still jazzy, it follows closely with much of the Balkan Brass music I have heard. And check out the great Accordion solo by van Tol.

"Have A Seat" and "Hear My Degu A Comin’" are stylistically similar, with both using the short Balkan trill as part of the melody. Very interesting tunes, one fast and the other slow. I keep singing "Hear My Degu" to myself when no one is around. You will, too.

"Dracula" is an interesting contrast in styles. While the Accordion and Trumpet solos are the highlight here, this track has a most interesting melody. Take a Blakan theme and cross it with Lee Morgan’s "A Sidewinder," and you have the essence of STriCat.

The two Sirbas on the album, "Sir Bah" and "Sirba Voor Susanna" are STriCat’s vision of the traditional folk song, the latter played on muted Trumpet.

The sound quality is excellent. I had good results on everything I listened on- car, computer, and home theater. The Trumpet is clearly the lead instrument, but you never lose the Cymbalom or Accordion in the mix. Great engineering by Micha de Kanter.

The CD package has no liner notes, only the track listing, personnel, and credits on the back cover. There are some great photos of the band members on the foldout. The web site has more info, including sound and video clips.

I can easily recommend Rats & Gentle People. This is truly World Music, and STriCat has hit on a fresh concept that should gain a wide following.

Reviewed by Keith Wolzinger, Klezmer Podcast, 29 Nov 2008.

Personnel this recording:
Bokkie Vink: cimbalom
Theo van Tol: akkordeon
Gijs Levelt: trompet


  1. Driving Madness (Bokkie Vink) 6:09
  2. Have A Seat (Gijs Levelt) 4:18
  3. Lay Dee 'p' (Theo van Tol) 2:49
  4. Mohawk Territory (Bokkie Vink) 5:07
  5. Sir Bah (Bokkie Vink) 5:50
  6. Loose Ends (Theo van Tol) 5:45
  7. Asphalt (Bokkie Vink) 6:11
  8. Toni (Bokkie Vink) 5:33
  9. V (Gijs Levelt) 5:23
  10. Hear My Degu A Comin' (Bokkie Vink) 7:02
  11. Dracula (Theo van Tol) 5:27
  12. Sîrba Voor Susanna (Gijs Levelt) 3:26

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