Alon Nechushtan: The Growl (2007)
There are many reasons to be suspicious about the suddenif not superficialrevival of Eastern European Jewish folk music, ie. klezmer, in the States, especially when examining the catalogue of the Radical Jewish Culture series of John Zorn's Tzadik imprint. Many young outfits which emerge from New York's Downtown scene or innovative music academies, stating that they are influenced by some of the main active players of that scenessuch as reed players Marty Ehrlich and Daniel Carter, in the case of Talatchoose to play their stylistic adaptation of a musical genre that its origins and surroundings are thousands of miles away, as if it is a kind of a marketing ploy.
Luckily, Talat's inaugural recording, The Growl, while paying its considerable dues to klezmer, covers more bases, including African and Middle Eastern music, plus spiritual themes, all processed through improvised contexts. Originally a trio headed by composer and keyboard player Alon Nechushtan, whose resume includes works for dance and theater groups, Talat is augmented on this recording by the front line of young trumpeter Matt Shulman and saxophonist Marc Mommaas; they enjoy the mixing services of Bill Laswell.
The opening title track, inspired by a short poem by Steve Dalachinsky and Nechushtan that calls to "sedate that grotesque obscenity known as WAR," plays on all the familiar shticks of klezmer, but stresses the quintet's tight interplay and fluidity. "Romansiero" suggests a grander musical vision of Anthony Coleman's Sephardic Tinge trio, but it does not cross the musical framework that Coleman has already set.
"Loa'madon" draws its inspiration from an Israeli folk tune, but manages to add more layers to the simple and beautiful original theme; Shulman shines here in a bursting, singing solo, opposite Mommaas' more restrained solo, all bound by a the assured playing of bassist Matt Pavolka. "Sh'ag," with Nechushtan leading on the organ, offers many chances for the front-line players to lock in with Nechushtan's bluesy lines. The concluding track, "Shoam," develops as a mysterious klezmer suite, with many surprising turns and interludes. It's an impressive finale for this release.
The Growl effectively exploits Alon Nechushtan's promising compositional skills, but I would like to hear more of him when he is not binding himself to a certain genre.
Track Listing: The Growl; Romansiero (River of Tears); Hasidic Monk; Psefias; Me'agel; Loa'madon; Sh'ag; Tikkun Olam (Ladder to the Rainbow); Tzahor; Shoham.
Personnel: Alon Nechushtan: keyboards; Marc Mommaas: saxophones; Matt Shulman: trumpet; Matt Pavolka: bass; Jordan Perlson: drums.
Record Label: Tzadik