Since 1999, Compass Rose quintet has built a steady following with their sophisticated and catchy sound. Their original compositions and innovative arrangements take a fresh approach to instrumental music, pleasing both listeners and dancers alike. With a line-up of violin, mandolin, guitar, string bass, and percussion, they adapt styles drawn from a wide range of international influences--everything from Celtic jigs & reels to boleros, Brazilian bossas & choros to Moroccan ghira, French musette to gypsy swing, and Caribbean sambas to tangos. It all adds up to a unique blend that is CRq’s signature sound.
Like a lot of good things, Compass Rose came about by serendipity. David Effgen and Larry Howe grew up playing rock ’n roll together in Boston, headed to different parts of the country for about twenty years, only to end up neighbors in Chicago. Rekindling their friendship also rekindled their passion for playing music together. From their work in numerous other bands--Dave in New York and Houston, Larry in New England--as well as some formal study, they’d learned a lot over the years. This showed in the variety of material they began to write after reconnecting.
It wasn’t long before their Sunday morning sessions included Gary Cleland on bass, whose classical and jazz background, not to mention his sense of humor, added interesting elements to the mix. Gary’s technique in pizzicato and with the bow provided a solid foundation for the sounds of the guitar and mandolin, and they knew they were on the right track.
As their original repertoire expanded, it seemed only natural to bring in another player. Enter Bill Novak, whose accordion--as well as his experience playing in polka, rock, and jazz bands in Cleveland-- brought an entirely new sound to the ensemble and helped to open up a whole range of other styles to explore.
The multicultural influence of the band’s compositions called out for percussion, and who better to answer the call than Atiba Y. Jali. This veteran of extremely diverse musical styles solidified the ensemble playing and added the kind of texture the band was looking for.
In 2003, Bill moved on, and Andy Stees brought his violin on board. CRq’s evolution into a string band created some new opportunities for developing melodic space. Andy’s range of musical experiences from classical to alternative rock gives him a deep inventory of ideas. His contributions have given new life to the band’s older tunes; his duets and harmonies with the guitar or the mandolin add a richness that surprises fans who were familiar with the earlier arrangements. And the compositions the band has added to the repertoire since Andy joined have taken the sound in new directions as well.
For a sampling of Compass Rose quintet, check out the mp3 clips on this site, and make sure you mark your calendar for their upcoming dates.