Marbin: Aggressive Hippies

Dave Wayne By

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Far from being just another jazz-rock fusion band, Marbin occupies their own stylistic space. More an instrumental rock band than a jazz fusion band, Marbin's music seems to come from the guitar hero world of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Joe Bonamassa. But there's a good deal of other stuff going on in their music. Steeped in blues, surf, and the folk music of their native Israel, in addition to jazz- rock, Marbin consistently avoids easy pigeonholing. Part of this is due to the fact that the band is based on the musical partnership of two virtuosos: guitarist Dani Rabin and saxophonist Danny Markovitch. People stopped thinking of saxophone as a virtuosic lead instrument in rock music decades ago, but Markovitch seems determined to change that view single- handedly. On Aggressive Hippies he repeatedly goes toe- to-toe with Rabin, a flame-throwing guitarist if there ever was one. The results present a convincing case for the rock sax, to say the least.

Since the band's inception, drums and bass have rotated between a half-dozen individuals, and a disparate bunch of hired guns have been employed on the albums. However, bassist John W. Lauler and drummer Greg Essig really seem to get what Marbin is all about on a very deep level. And what are they all about? Well... they're touring hard, and kicking ass everywhere they go. They can truly swing and truly rock out. No mean feat, that. Aggressive Hippies espouses a similar take-no-prisoners approach. Not highbrow in any way, and absolute fun from start to finish, Aggressive Hippies doesn't come off as a "thinking man's party album," rather, it's a party animal's mind food.

Previous albums have been a mixed bag, veering randomly from hell-bent-for-leather guitar-centric instrumental rockers to mellow, almost smooth jazz-sounding numbers dominated by Markovitch's almost vocal-sounding saxophone. The immediate precursor to Aggressive Hippies was a collection of live tracks (The Third Set, MoonJune Records, 2014) that, for the first time, seemed to capture Marbin's true nature. On Aggressive Hippies the band has replicated the energy and spontaneity of their live shows in the studio, and the results are quite impressive.

Basically, Aggressive Hippies starts off with a bang and never lets up. Gone are the somewhat sappy, mellow ballads and studio ringers. This music is raw. It's played by a hungry, road-tested band. Infectiously melodic, consistently rockin, there's still an undercurrent of proggy complexity that will sneak up on you. "Y'All Are Good" snakes almost imperceptibly through alternating sections of 5/4 and 3/4, "African Shabtay" moves from an impossibly quick tutti intro to the tune's equally fleet melody. Here, Markovitch's soprano solo invokes strong Saharan vibes whereas Rabin's guitar synth solo draws from decidedly Western sources to craft a contrasting statement. "Morning Star," the token mellow tune, avoids smooth jazz gloss and opts, instead, for a vaguely latin- rock feel, not unlike Pat Metheny's famous piece "Are You Going With Me" (Offramp, ECM Records, 1982). "Jambo" starts off like a metal tune, with Rabin's rapid-fire shred and Essig's double-bass drumming way up front. Before you know it, the tune veers off into a completely different direction, and then another, and then another. But that's business as usual in the hyperactive funhouse instrumental rock world of Marbin.

Track Listing: Just Music; Y'All Are Good; Intro; African Shabtay; Juke Joint; O'l Neckin'; Morning Star; Aggressive Hippies; Jambo.

Personnel: Danny Markovitch: saxophones; Dani Rabin: electric guitar, guitar synthesizer; Greg Essig: drums; John W. Lauler: electric bass.

Title: Aggressive Hippies | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Moonjune Records

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