240

Alex Kontorovich: Deep Minor

Eyal Hareuveni By

Sign in to view read count
Twenty-six year-old, Russia-born/New York-based clarinetist/saxophonist Alex Kontorovich is a phenomenon. He's a martial arts black belt, math professor at Brown University, "Bird-head" by his own definition, but one that is also well versed with John Coltrane's legacy. He's also a key member of Klezmer and Ska bands including Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars, The Klez Dispensers, Aaron Alexander's Midrash Mish Mosh, KlezSka and King Django's Roots and Culture band. A resourceful and disciplined musician, he integrates his Jewish musical heritage with the vocabulary of bebop in a creative and persuasive manner on his debut as a leader, Deep Minor, while avoiding obvious cliché, but with tons of passion and integrity.

For this recording Kontorovich—who wrote all the compositions—has assembled a tight and aggressive rhythm section. Drummer Aaron Alexander is also a member of the Klezmer Brass All-Stars and the Hasidic New Wave. Free jazz bassist Reuben Radding and the brilliant banjoist/guitarist Brandon Seabrock from the alt-Klezmer Naftule's Dream round out the line-up.

The quartet blasts off on the opening "Transit Strike Blues. Kontorovich cleverly transforms the Klezmer misheberach mode into an infectious and frantic minor blues form, alternating searing solos with Seabrock, who demonstrates his percussive banjo playing. "Kandels Burning" is tongue-in-cheek tribute to Klezmer bandleader and clarinetist Harry Kandel from the beginning of the 20th century, and here Kontorovich plays in and out the Romanian hora dance form, referencing Kandel as much as he does Trane, pushed by the fractured and frantic rhythms that Alexander produces. "New Orleans Funeral March" is a bluesy tribute to the birthplace of jazz that slowly boils around the articulate bass playing of Radding until its ecstatic free jazz climax. On "Waltz for Piazzolla," Kontorovich and his band mates present a much more reserved and sensual approach, especially Kontorovich on clarinet.

"Sirba" is a fast and exhausting dance form, and the quartet pushes it joyfully, with Kontorovich and Seabrock alternating solos on clarinet and electric guitar, while Radding and Alexander supply inspired stop-time rhythms. "Hora Nossim" is a testimony to the way Kontorovich plays with an East European traditional dance form, coloring it as a bluegrass song, courtesy of Seabrock's banjo, and adding Monk-esque improvisation while still managing to keep things organic and natural. "AfroJewBan Suite" marries a bebop scale with a Cuban/Klezmer rhythm in the same celebratory manner that the Hassidic New Wave explored "the Afro-Semitic Diaspora" on From the Belly of Abraham (Knitting Factory, 2001). Kontorovich concludes with a propulsive and inspired tribute to Charlie Parker's "Chi Chi, transformed here into an exhilarating Klezmer "Tzitit.

Warmly recommended.


Track Listing: Transit Strike Blues; Kandels Burning; New Orleans Funeral March; Waltz for Piazzolla; Sirba; Nossim Hora; AfroJewban Suite; Tzitzit.

Personnel: Alex Kontorovich: clarinet, alto saxophone; Brandon Seabrook: guitar, banjo, tapes; Reuben Radding: bass; Aaron Alexander: drums.

Title: Deep Minor | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Chamsa Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Slægt CD/LP/Track Review Slægt
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 24, 2017
Read An Eye on the Future CD/LP/Track Review An Eye on the Future
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 24, 2017
Read Cherry ‎– Sakura CD/LP/Track Review Cherry ‎– Sakura
by John Sharpe
Published: September 24, 2017
Read Blow, Strike & Touch CD/LP/Track Review Blow, Strike & Touch
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 24, 2017
Read Elusive CD/LP/Track Review Elusive
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Transitions CD/LP/Track Review Transitions
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 23, 2017
Read "Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960" CD/LP/Track Review Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 29, 2017
Read "Allison Philips Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Allison Philips Trio
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 27, 2016
Read "The Danish Sessions" CD/LP/Track Review The Danish Sessions
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 2, 2017
Read "Begin to Dance" CD/LP/Track Review Begin to Dance
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 19, 2017
Read "Live In New York" CD/LP/Track Review Live In New York
by John Sharpe
Published: October 4, 2016
Read "Collider" CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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