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Jerome Sabbagh: North (2004)

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Jerome Sabbagh: North How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Multifarious elements differentiate Brooklyn-by-way-of-Paris' Jerome Sabbagh from the tenor-playing pack, such as forward-thinking, tradition-rejecting compositions that bring to mind the "big O," as in organic. Another, more obvious element distinguishing this session is the presence of Brooklyn's own Ben Monder in what has to rank as the premier performance by a sideman in 2004. It's simply impossible to imagine this set of erudite originals without the spectrum of colors from the guitar, from delicate pointillism to ebullient abstraction, that Monder so fluently provides.

This is also the debut of precocious 22 year-old drummer Ted Poor. A product of the Eastman School, Poor's nuanced approach belies his years, showing hints of rock references and an exhilaratingly intentional untidiness that bears the modern influence of Jim Black. The fact that the recording was done by James Farber live to two track analog tape pertains here in terms of fidelity, because it's the drums that benefit most from this technique. Not the "distant" sound of the drums we hear on live recordings or that shimmering "studio" sound, it's simply what jazz drummers sound like from ten feet away, with Poor's kit sounding uncannily like he's set up right in my bedroom or subway car. Whatever it is Farber's doing, he's on the right (two) track(s).

"Trip" is an up-tempo new modern standard, a quick unison sprint by Monder and Sabbagh, buoyed by Poor's loose groove, Sabbagh taking flight over Monder's pianistic comping. Refreshingly reference-free throughout, the tenorist can nonetheless invoke classic Trane or chromatic, ultramodern Lieb, especially when he double-times here. There's nothing Monder can't do as well as anybody who has ever done it—he just does more things that incredibly than any other player. His "Trip" yields vintage liquid linearity, pausing for breath at the appropriate times to maintain the swing factor. Poor kicks a solo swingingly old-school before a quick wind-down ends this efficient modern cooker.

"Extatik Eztetik" mines similar territory, a loping melody giving way to an impossibly coordinated unison blow between the guitarist and tenorist. The guitarist echoes and elaborates on this unison passage in his solo spot, with shorter, clipped phrases gradually elongating into longer cascades. A supernatural level of interplay between Sabbagh and Monder is evident on the haunting ballad "Follow the Light," with Monder simply continuing his solo, dancing with Sabbagh throughout the tenor's restatement of the melody and out to tune's end.

"Indian Song" waxes ethnic, landing on Sabbagh's gorgeous turnaround/refrain over Poor's jangling clatter. Sabbagh's explorations are set off here beautifully by Monder's lighting-quick classical arppegiations until the guitarist and drummer simply go off in aggressive spine-tingling fashion. For more in this vein, make sure to check out Monder's bait-and-switch freakout on the solo for the ECM-esque folk stylings of "Hymn."

Yet another in the long line of auspicious debuts from Fresh Sound New Talent artists, this one stands out even from what is becoming that label's "usual" exceptional standard.

Visit Jerome Sabbagh on the web.

Track Listing: 1. North, 2. Follow the Light, 3. Extatik Eztetik,4. Indian Song, 5. Sick Leo, 6. Trip, 7. Hymn,8. Every Now and Then, 9. Not Quite Blue

Personnel: Jerome Sabbagh-Tenor Sax,Ben Monder-guitar,Joe Martin-Bass, Ted Poor-Drums

Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent


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