A few years ago Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series explored a little-known mash-up of Jewish and Cuban musical traditions on two charming recordings by percussionist Roberto Juan RodriguezEl Danzon de Moises (2002) and Baila! Gitano Baila! (2004). But as fascinating as those recordings were, they featured a musical perspective by an all-star cast of musicians who hardly exercised these great musical traditions.
Odessa/Havana, by the Canadian leader of the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, David Buchbinder, suggests another fresh look on the Eastern European Jewish Klezmer and Cuban traditions. This time, however, the musicians he's chosen are well-versed with at least one of these cultures inside and out; while searching for the common ancestry in Moorish Spain that shared influences from Gypsy, Sephardic and North African forebears, and then moving forward through the Jewish-fuelled, American Mambo craze of the 1950s to the present post-multicultural urban musical happening in Canada.
Buchbinder has assembled an impressive group of Canadian collaboratorscomposer/partner and award winning Cuban piano virtuoso Hilario Durán, who has worked with Arturo Sandoval and Dizzie Gillespie and leads his own big band; and a few of Duran's regular collaborators, including bassist/producer , reedman Quinsin Nachoff and drummer Mark Kelso. He's also enlisted experienced musicians including violinist Aleksander Gajic, percussionists Rick Shadrach Lazarand Jorges Luis "Papiosco" Torres, and drummer Dafnis Prieto.
This successful project may be more sustainable than most of Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series, which are as-hoc initiatives. The thoughtful, high-powered collision of the two musical cultures sounds natural and organic, and Buchbinder and Durán manage to brilliantly fuse these cultures in such a tight manner that it's sometimes difficult to know if a theme is derived from somewhere in Eastern Europe or originates from a Cuban rhythm. Buchbinder's "Cadiz," named after the Andalasuian port city, cleverly demonstrates this approach. It begins as a typical Eastern European lament presented by Buchbinder and Gajic, but filtered through John Gzowski's Middle-Eastern oud. It then transforms into a slow-burning, collective upbeat Latin interplay with the entire ensemble; still referencing the Eastern European and Iberian themes, but also suggesting new and rich meanings.
Durán's spare "Next One Rising" leaves enough space for Nachoff, Occhipinti and the pianist to articulate beautifully on this new fusion.
Gajic, one of the most striking players on this recording, takes Durán's percussion-based "Rumba Judia" to a tour through the Mediterranean with a moving solo. Buchbinder's meditative "Prayer" finds Gajic again in an inspired duet with Gzowski, introducing a soulful solo by Buchbinder. Durán assimilates both cultures again on his "Freylekhs Tumbao," binding the Eastern European Jewish Hora dance with the Afro-Cuban swinging Tumbao rhythmical pattern into a newer form that, to borrow a Yiddish saying, succeeds to dance in both weddings.
Personnel: David Buchbinder: trumpet; Hilario Duran: piano; Qunsin Nachoff: reeds, flute; Aleksander Gajic: violin; Luis Guerra: piano; Mark Kelso: drums; Rick Shadrach: percussion; Dafnis Prieto: drums; Jorges Luis "Papiosco" Torres: percussion; John Gzowski: oud; Roberto Occhipinti: bass.