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Alex Kontorovich: Deep Minor

Troy Collins By

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The Radical Jewish Cultural movement, spurred into existence by avant-garde composer John Zorn, is already in its second decade and steadily progressing into the future. Russian-born saxophonist/clarinetist Alex Kontorovich is part of a new generation embracing the wild and wooly rhythms and primal harmonic inflections of an ancient ethnic subculture.

Co-founder of the Klez Dispensers, Kontorovich is a well-regarded member of the Klezmatics and Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars. This solo outing features a slightly different side of the in-demand multi-instrumentalist, drawing equally from classic jazz traditions and Yiddish folk conventions.

Assembling an all-star Downtown unit, Kontorovich is joined by drummer Aaron Alexander (Hasidic New Wave, Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars) and versatile Downtown luminary, bassist Reuben Radding. A tireless and versatile rhythm section, Alexander and Radding navigate ebullient bop patterns, shifting meters and pneumatic dance rhythms with an elastic sense of swing.

Guitarist Brandon Seabrook serves as Kontorovich's front-line foil. Long-time member of experimental Klezmer pioneers Naftule's Dream (and their traditional alter-ego, Shirim) Seabrook is one of the most influential guitarists in the genre, rivaled only by John Madof (Rashanim) and Marc Ribot (Masada). From percolating junk-yard banjo plucking to searing peals of distorted electric guitar feedback, he covers every texture and tone in-between, almost stealing the show from the leader with his innovative approach.

Kontorovich's hybrid of Yiddish themes and jazz improvisation relies as much on advanced harmony as it does intricate rhythms and attentive group dynamics. Avoiding rote klezmer clichés, Kontorovich integrates the two worlds seamlessly, creating a unique hybrid of buoyant Hassidic melodies, modern jazz harmonies and experimental structural dynamics punctuated by dramatic interjections of free jazz dissonance and throttling metal-tinged outbursts.

Miles removed from such early efforts as vibraphonist Terry Gibbs well-intentioned pastiche of West-Coast jazz and Hassidic themes, Plays Jewish Melodies In Jazztime (Verve, 1963), Deep Minor expands the concept of Radical Jewish Culture into the 21st Century.

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

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