With his program of eight original compositions, clarinetist and alto saxophonist Alex Kontorovich combines klezmer with modern jazz on Deep Minor, his debut as leader. While expressing the exotic nature of his quartet's unique sound, the title also reflects the spiritual feelings evident in the music.
Progressive in concept, the album soars with genuine emotion, a sincere combination of the acoustic tradition and more contemporary textures. The leader's clarinet floats aloft like a human voice and his alto saxophone, while bright and high-stepping, wraps up the quartet in a warm coat of everyday conversation. Kontorovich makes you feel as though you're talking to a friend.
Brandon Seabrook adds electric guitar, banjo and electronics to the session, while bassist Reuben Radding and drummer Aaron Alexander maintain a solid rhythmic foundation. The solo work from bass and guitar prove particularly emphatic, though Kontorovich ensures that his ensemble maintains a cohesive front.
The cultural ties Kontorovich brings in from his native Russia are never far from reach, as impressions embedded in his program range from mournful prayer to joyous celebration. "AfroJewban Suite takes off like "A Night in Tunisia while "New Orleans Funeral March goes over the top with an alto tirade. Much of the album concentrates on klezmer however, the leader's clarinet making a particularly strong impression. Deep Minor has the kind of irresistible appeal that makes us cry out for more.
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: electric guitar, banjo, tapes; Reuben Radding: double-bass; Aaron Alexander: drums.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.