Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Catchy, Rewardingly Unpredictable Accordion Jazz From the Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project

The Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project’s new album Kites and Strings – which hasn’t hit the web yet – is as unpredictable as it is richly and entertainingly melodic.These songs hit you in waves: lots of long crescendos, with no predictable verse/chorus pattern. Rosenblum plays both piano and accordion here with a remarkable economy of notes, often overdubbing one instrument or another. He likes circling hooks and variations. Sometimes this evokes the Claudia Quintet at their most playful

In the album’s opening number,  Cedar Place, he bedevils the listener with an endless series of rhythmic shifts beneath Wayne Tucker’s jaunty trumpet swing melody. Jasper Dutz’s bass clarinet looms to the surface after a hard-hitting yet hypnotic trumpet-fueled interlude, then he switches to tenor sax, floating and weaving as the brisk swing of bassist Marty Jaffe and drummer Ben Zweig reaches critical mass.

The title track opens with a coyly strutting pairing of Rosenblum’s accordion and Jake Chapman’s vibraphone before the horns float in, then recede for a twinkling solo from the vibes as Rosenblum runs a subtle, flamenco-tinged accordion riff. Tucker’s calm, contented solo signals another brightly methodical upward climb.

Halfway to Wonderland is a bracing gem, veering in and out of waltz time to a hard-hitting piano solo, bass clarinet bubbling away as the rhythm section flurries, True to its title, Motif From Brahms is a wistful chamber jazz piece, the accordion adding cheer and bringing the temperature to a boil over a balletesque pulse following a moody, tersely neoromantic piano solo. The orchestral interweave at the end is tantalizingly brief: Rosenblum could have kept it going twice as long and nobody would be complaining.

The quasi-Balkan Fight or Flight is cartoonish and irresistibly funny, the whole band getting into the picture as guitarist Rafael Rosa flings off his distorted chords and then cuts loose on his own. It wouldn’t be out of place in the Greg Squared catalog.

Roseblum’s accordion sails over spacious, emphatic piano chords as Somewhere picks up from pensiveness toward a sense of triumph fueled by the trumpet, then the bass clarinet signals a shift toward latin territory. The warmly nocturnal ending is a neat, unpredictable touch.

Trumpet and sax build a lowlit exchange over Rosenblum’s dusky glimmer in Philadelphia, an unselfconsciously gorgeous ballad. Slightly restrained joy in solos from bass and trumpet finds a payoff in Rosa’s haphazard coda. Rossenblum keeps the glistening song-without-words ambience going in Bright Above Us, vibraphone adding extra tingle on the high end, guitar blazing a return from the stars, bass reaching for a subtler peak before the whole band ignites.

The horns start out in New Orleans as Laughing on the Inside kicks off with a brisk swing, accordion and then guitar taking the song further outside with echoes of Monk and eventually a devious drum solo. They close with Izpoved, a lingering, wary chorale for horns and accordion. One of the most adrenalizing and enjoyable albums of the past several months.

January 29, 2021 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Early Morning Blaze From the Uncategorizably Brilliant Klazz-Ma-Tazz

Pianist Ben Rosenblum hit a sharks-teeth minor-key spiral, echoed with slithery precision by bandleader and violinist Ben Sutin. Meanwhile, bassist Mat Muntz dipped and swayed, a monster truck spring at peak tension crossing a ravine in some remote Chernobyl forest. Behind them, drummer Tim Rachbach worked tense variations on a clave groove as guitarist Rafael Rosa held back, deep in the shadows, saxophonist Elijah Shiffer waiting for his moment. That would come about fifteen minutes later. At this point, it was about quarter to noon on Sunday morning.

The album release show by Sutin’s phenomenal band Klazz-Ma-Tazz transcended a lot of things, including but not limited to genre specificity and time of day. While Sutin’s compositions and arrangements draw deeply from the vast well of classic Jewish folk music from east of the Danube, they’re hardly limited to that. What they play is jazz, but it’s also dance music. You could also call it film music, considering how deeply they can plunge into noir. But they didn’t stay there, or anywhere, for long.

Musicians tend not to be morning people. But watching this band blaze through two ferocious, sets made it more than worthwhile to sit there glassy-eyed after spending most of the previous evening at the Brooklyn Folk Festival. Interestingly, Sutin launched his epic Letting Go suite, from the band’s new album Meshugenah, just two songs in. Its allusive, chromatically electriified rises and falls foreshadowed the feral but expertly orchestrated intensity they’d save for the second set, veering from panoramic desertscapes to hints of samba and some Cuban flair.

Shiffer’s moment was a coda. Before then, he and Sutin had built a briefly heated conversation, but even that didn’t hint at what the saxophonist had up his sleeve. Working his baritione to what seemed the top of his register, he dropped it and reached for his alto. The choreography wasn’t perfect, but the effect was irresistibly fun as he went for the jugular…then put it down, picked up the bari again and took that big horn to heights nobody expected, or probably imagined were possible. Sure, it was a show-off move: to see somebody actually pull it off at such an early hour was really something else.

Sutin told the crowd that Sunrise, Sunset was one of his alltime favorite songs, then reinvented it as lush, plaintive, latin-tinged syncopated swing, a Lynch film set somewhere in the Negev. His version of In Odessa pounced and charged, possibly mirroring Putin-era terrorism there, Rosenblum’s bittersweet accordion holding its own against the stampede.

The second set showcased the band’s sense of humor as well as how feral they can get. Muntz’s quasi-Balkan dance Cyberbalkanization had a relentless, tongue-in-cheek faux EDM whoomp-whoomp beat, Sutin and Shiffer trading terse, acidic phrases overhead. From there they ranged from brooding and mournful to cumulo-nimbus ominousness in their version of Tumbalalaika, segueing into a majestically careening, turbocharged take of the classic Misirlou – but without much in the way of surf.

They saved the guest rapper and singers for the end. Sheyn Vi Di Levone is best known as a schmaltzy ballad, but singer Astrid Kuljanic worked its coy internal rhymes for all it was worth, the band making perfectly decent, uneasy midtempo swing out of it. Then guest Zhenya Lopatnik opened their version of Bei Mir Bist Du Schön with a suspenseful, moody rubato vocal solo before the band swung it, hard. Thank You, from the band’s sizzlingly good debut album, was one of the closing numbers, awash in slashing modal riffs and shifting meters. That the band managed to play one of the best shows of 2018 so far, so early in the day, speaks for itself. Sutin’s next gig is a low-key trio show tomorrow, April 11 at 7 PM at Sidewalk. 

April 10, 2018 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment