209

Babaghanoush: Aphrodite Moves on

Eric J. Iannelli By

Sign in to view read count
Babaghanoush is a Middle Eastern spread made from chopped eggplant and a type of sesame paste called tahini. It's often classed among Greek cuisine, but every country with a coast along the Mediterranean has at one time or another tried to claim responsibility for the invention of the dish. But now Babaghanoush has succeeded in turning the tables. Sort of.

The Babaghanoush under review is a band, not a food, and has not laid claim to these Mediterranean countries themselves so much as it has appropriated their respective musical heritages, blending them into a single delectable style. The resulting sound on Aphrodite Moves on, Babaghanoush's debut release, is bigger—much bigger—than the quartet itself; though at home in the New Age vogue of Los Angeles, where the group formed in 2001, it extends far beyond into more substantial and exotic territory.

Guitarist Dimitris Jimmy Mahlis has included seven original charts along with his arrangements of two traditional Greek songs, "Karapataki" and "Open the Door Lenio." His "Club Bollywood," a reference to the all-singing, all-dancing Indian movie industry, sees him going note-for-note with saxophonist Antti Suzuki while Jerry Watts (who occasionally has his deep bass line mirrored by Mahlis) and drummer Ralph Humphrey lay down a complex polyrhythm. The song begins with the aura of mystery and philosophical questioning that seems to characterize oriental music, but gradually evolves into something optimistic and sunny. The solos are smooth, controlled and deeply melodic. What makes it jazz-like and therefore familiar to Western ears is the return to the mysterious head at the conclusion.

The four-minute "Sudhammi" is an Eastern-influenced rock boogie. Mahlis' guitar snarls, growls following a quick drum intro. Watts pulses forward. Suzuki and Mahlis meet, going note-for-note again, then depart on some ecstatic tangents. Humphrey keeps time with an intricate, lightning-fast beat, growing more spirited, aggressive and elaborate as the song continues. "Koufoula" has an equally enviable deftness and delicacy. But it is the thirteen-minute "Twirling," a beautiful, rhythmic fusion epic, that makes Aphrodite Moves on such a joy to listen to.

Flaws exist, but they are relatively minor. The album's supremely irritating moment comes with the close of the title track, on which Babaghanoush repeats the same string of four notes for three minutes with minimal change in emphasis. "Karapataki" suffers a bit from this tendency toward bland repetition, too. The first variation (in the form of Mahlis' solo) from the traditional tune doesn't clock in until the three-minute mark exactly.

Aphrodite Moves on is nevertheless an excellent album from a quartet that could just have easily have turned out some multicultural kitsch for the benefit of the ethnically hip world music crowd at the WOMAD Festival. Instead they've recorded a skillful and surprising debut. This particular Babaghanoush should please all types of palates.


Track Listing: 1. Club Bollywood (7:22); 2. Sudhamani (4:50); 3. Aphrodite Moves on (10:46); 4. Karapataki (5:06); 5. Koufoula (7:08); 6. Twirling (13:44); 7. Eleni's Waltz (6:10); 8. Open the Door Lenio (6:52); 9. Ousak Taksim (1:07)

Personnel: Dimitris Jimmy Mahlis, guitar; Ralph Humphrey, drums and percussion; Antti Suzuki, saxophones; Jerry Watts, bass

Title: Aphrodite Moves on | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Blouzo


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Wake Up Call" CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 24, 2017
Read "Strykin’ Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Strykin’ Ahead
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 13, 2017
Read "Pandora's Bag" CD/LP/Track Review Pandora's Bag
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 25, 2017
Read "The Reasons Don't Change" CD/LP/Track Review The Reasons Don't Change
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 15, 2017
Read "Kansas City Here I Come" CD/LP/Track Review Kansas City Here I Come
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Voices in the Void" CD/LP/Track Review Voices in the Void
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 3, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.