Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

David Buchbinder Draws a Straight Line Back to Andalucia

Medieval Andalucia was the musical mecca where the nobility of Europe sent their spoiled kids to learn how to play it. It was where Arabs, Jews and Spaniards traded riffs. The golden age of jazz was much the same. with its alchemy of African, European and Latino sounds. Trumpeter David Buchbinder‘s new album Walk to the Sea with his Odesssa/Havana group recalls those eras as well as Arturo O’Farrill and Steven Bernstein’s recent mashups of those sounds. It’s one of the best albums Tzadik has put out in recent years and one of the best of 2013.

The opening track, Coffee Works, is a a diptych, juxtaposing a slinky klezmer-tinged stroll and then triumphantly picking up the pace with a salsa groove lit up by Aleksandar Gajic’s stark, resonant violin, and then a spiraling Hilario Duran piano solo  A Duran arrangement of the traditional tune Landarico sets Maryem Hassan Tollar’s cool caramel vocals to a gorgeous minor-key jazz waltz, a blend of cutting-edge Fania era salsa, klezmer and jazz. Buchbinder’s chromatically bristling solo hands off to Roberto Occhipinti’s boomy bass, which gives John Johnson’s tenor and Duran’s piano a chance to conspire furtively as it goes doublespeed and then back.

The lone Duran composition here, Aventura Judia works variations on a similarly catchy chromatic salsa vamp with a lively exchange between Johnson and Buchbinder and a scampering piano solo, its web of percussion growing thicker as it pulses along. Somebody write some lyrics and give this to Earth Wind & Fire, or Spanglish Fly!  La Roza Una follows with vocal variations on a stately minor-key martial riff.

The title track begins with a moody syncopation and builds to a blaze fueled by a two-horn attack from Johnson’s clarinet and Buchbinder’s trumpet, growing funkier as it bounces along. La Roza Dos goes in the opposite direction from a funky waltz to a wary, intense anthem, Tollar’s microtonal vocals enhancing the uneasy atmosphere. Valentin gives Buchbinder a chance to work dynamic magic against Duran’s flickering piano and Johnson’s pensive tenor sax, the percussion section pushing the ensemble through long upward and downward waves.

Calliope, another slinky salsa groove, gives Johnson a launching pad for a killer Middle Eastern tenor solo, Duran’s solo leading them through a brief doublespeed romp as it winds out. The final track rises from brooding, spacious neoromantic atmospherics to the closest thing to a straight-up salsa tune here, Tollar’s insistent vocals working a neat counterpoint with the resonant twin horns, Occhipinti, Duran and then Gajic trading incisive licks. Tuneful, edgy cross-pollination doesn’t get any more memorably anthemic than this.

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October 20, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Bassam Saba – Wonderful Land

Truth in advertising: this is a wonderful album, one of the year’s very best. Multi-instrumentalist Bassam Saba leads the New York Arabic Orchestra, arguably America’s most vital large-scale Middle Eastern music ensemble. This is a richly diverse, emotionally resonant collection of original compositions, a tribute to Saba’s native Lebanon. Here the composer plays ney flute, western flutes, saz (Turkish lute), oud, buzuq, bansuri flute and violin, joined by an inspired, virtuosic cast of Megan Gould on violin and viola, William Martina on cello, Peter Slavov on upright bass, and April Centrone and Jamey Haddad on a drum store’s worth of percussion instruments.

The album begins on a lush, vividly pastoral note with the ten-minute suite Nirvana, morphing from a stately dance theme into a sprightly, swinging scherzo and then a distantly haunting ney solo over terse oud and percussion. The ensemble end it with a beautifully majestic crescendo, bringing up the strings and oud. A similarly understated majesty rises later on the evocative Breeze from the South, Saba’s conversational arrangement for oud and buzuq building to a joyous, anthemic theme. Saba’s bansuri flute taqsim opens the goodnaturedly hypnotic Orange Dusk, its loping beat mimicking the sway of a camel making its way methodically across the desert. The title cut takes an apprehensive oud taqsim intro up into a joyous levantine dance with a terse simplicity worthy of Mohammed Abdel Wahab, followed by a long, expressionistic buzuq solo. U Vrot Vastoka (At the Door of the Orient) works tension between the distantly threatening rhythm section versus Saba’s peaceful ney (which cleverly nicks a western spy show melody).

Waltz to My Father, based on a Russian folk melody, could be Henry Purcell, strings cleverly echoing the flute theme – and then suddenly it’s back to the desert, to the here and now with the shifting, trance-inducing pulse of the bass. The group introduce a rattling, increasingly apprehensive oud-fueled East African taraab feel on Afrocola, a homage to Patrice Lumumba. The album concludes with Story of the Dried River, a dreamy, minimalist flute-and-percussion mood piece. It’s to think of another album as warmly and captivatingly atmospheric as this that’s come out in 2010.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment