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Between producing the soundtrack for the hit Broadway musical Hadestown, being Ani DiFranco’s longtime sideperson, and maintaining a prolific career as a producer, engineer, and hired gun, it’s been some years since bassist/composer Todd Sickafoose has made a solo album. From the sound of Bear Proof, though, the time it took to marinate made it worth the long wait. Inspired by the cyclical nature of success and failure, especially in the face of hard times, Sickafoose composed an interrelated series of pieces exploring the emotional arc of enduring that cycle. Assembling a powerhouse ensemble of like-minded friends, including violinist Jenny Scheinman, guitarist Adam Levy, drummer Allison Miller, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, pianist Erik Deutsch, and accordion player Rob Reich (Google all of them to see how impressive their resumés are), Sickafoose recorded the nine songs live in the studio as if it was one longform piece, approaching them like a classical suite. Sometimes dense, sometimes lighter than air, and always melodic, the tracks explore both dynamics and thematic development with a sensitive touch and unbounded enthusiasm. Everyone involved seems so in sync it’s as if tracks like the exciting “Bent Into Shape” and the meditative “Magnetic North” arrived on record out of the ether, fully formed, so well crafted as to have always existed and just waiting to be discovered. Bear Proof is so good we hope he does everything he can to keep this group and its music at the forefront.
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