Astronauts of Albania (AOA), rather than being an ironically named hipster band, is actually led by Albanian emigre flutist Geni Skendo, a true musical explorer whose life adventure has brought him to the Boston area. The group plays the Albanian folk music of Skendo's youth, as refracted through his experience in jazz, classical and global music. Even the instrumentation tells the story: shakuhachi and bass flute, guitar, bass, and drums. Distinctive, odd meter Balkan grooves provide both a skeleton for dazzling solos and a contrast with free-improvised sections; sonic excursions spin out of international instrumentation and lead in surprising directions.
Front and center is Skendo's bass flute, exploring a sensuous low register far below the standard flute, and his Japanese shakuhachi, capable of delicate yet rich sonorities. Ben Levin works the electric guitar for hypnotic, lyrical and aggressive purposes; Umar Zakaria is a vastly experienced bassist who anchors every groove while interacting and weaving new textures; Aaron Edgecomb is a sensitive and hard-swinging drummer.
Altogether, AOA provides a unique blend of traditional melodies and state-of-the-art playing, always with a sharp and clear focus on melody and rhythm.