Apart from its pleasing appearance, the concertina isn't the most graceful instrument in the world. Imagine, perhaps, trying to coax a high, keening sound from a harmonica with buttons, or an accordion with no keyboard. But for Irish concertina virtuoso Niall Vallely, it's a fluid and evocative solo instrument, his warbling trills and bent notes reminiscent of uilleann pipes.
Just don't expect too much tradition from Vallely or his band Buílle, a trio that includes Vallely's brother Caoimhín on piano and keyboards, and guitarist Donal Clancy. Nearly all the tunes on the band's self-titled 2005 album are written by Niall Vallely, and while some -- such as "Singing Stream Air" -- tap a traditional Celtic pathos, the majority are spare, classical- and jazz-tinged instrumentals. The bluesy "Mullacreevie" wouldn't sound out of place on the end of a Tom Waits record, while "Grappa Groove" has a slip-jig feel and a sonorous timbre reminiscent of traditional Galician dance tunes. (The record was produced by Donald Shaw, a big name in Celtic music since his long stint in the genre-exploding Scottish group Capercaillie.)
Attaching the "jazz" tag to traditional music is often a fun but tasteless enterprise. (Remember Afro-Celt fusion and Béla Fleck?) But with Buílle, the emphasis is on contemporary compositions that blend tonalities of the past with elegant, understated arrangements. And if nothing else, you have to marvel at how Vallely bends this notoriously difficult little instrument to that task.
Buílle with Eve Goodman 8 p.m. Sat., March 3. Carnegie Lecture Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $28 ($30 at the door; $15 students). 412-394-3353 or www.proartstickets.org