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Martin Urbach: Free Will

Mark F. Turner By

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Drummer Martin (pronounced mar-TEEN) Urbach's Free Will is a multicolored self portrait. Born in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, his experiences have included performing at a young age, earning two music degrees from universities in New Orleans and New York as well as relocating to Astoria, NY, after losing his home to Hurricane Katrina. His debut seems to be an extension of these varied influences, a continuation of music that is modern and flexible to change.

An emotive drummer whose playing can be delicate or wildly bombastic, Urbach also shows an attuned compositional awareness channeled through a persuasive quintet whose instrumentation includes vibraphone, guitar, saxophone and bass. Having played together since 2002, the band's synergy is evident, with a robust integration of melody and improvisation. Like many debuts, Urbach presents variety, but unlike some, this set is cohesive and unpretentious. While Urbach's background might obviously include the sounds of his old stomping ground in "N'awlins" and the metro-centric progressiveness of the "Big Apple," his musical sphere of interests is clearly wider.

This is evinced in the pastoral Americana settings in "Welcome Song" and "Southern Damsels," which evoke the sounds of country music as well as jazz; soothing melodies as comfortable as a relaxing stroll in the park. The band shifts into slightly higher gear with "Luna's Theme," a stylish smooth metered theme carried by Urbach and bassist Pascal Niggenkemper's taut timing as Brian Seeger (guitar), Scott Bourgeois (sax) and Tim Collins (vibes) each color the melody with open solos.

These compositions evoke feeling. "Buscando Paz," is atmospheric, highlighted by Urbach's lyrical drum solo. The skies darken in "I Feel Love For You," then move into fervent avant-bop in "I Broke The Jazz" with astral vibe work and a crisp drum solo. The title track is the recording's showpiece. Written as a prayer for a friend at war, it exhibits a multitude of ideas—chaos/control, harmony/dissonance, distorted guitar, heartfelt solos and an uplifting melody that beckons repeated listens.

This is an auspicious release—subtle in context, yet unpredictable, and performed with passion.

Track Listing: Welcome Song; Southern Damsels; Luna's Theme; Thank You; Buscando Paz; I Feel Love For You; I Broke The Jazz; Free Will; Velvet Swamp.

Personnel: Brian Seeger: guitars; Scott Bourgeois: saxophones; Tim Collins: vibraphone; Pascal Niggenkemper: bass; Martin Urbach: drums, cymbals, percussion.

Title: Free Will | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Self Produced


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