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Marbin: Goat Man & The House of the Dead

Dave Wayne By

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It's truly been fun to watch Marbin grow and develop over the past few years. Their eponymous, self- released debut album, from way back in 2009, was a duet affair with the two principals—saxophonist Danny Markovitch and guitarist Dani Rabin—plying their talents on a clutch of brief and very intricate instrumentals. Sounding at times like an ECM release gone rogue, the duo's obvious virtuosity and poorly-suppressed manic energy made their subsequent forays into heavy instrumental rock no great surprise. Yet, on their subsequent albums, Breaking The Cycle (Moonjune Records, 2011), and Last Chapter Of Dreaming (Moonjune Records, 2013), Rabin and Markovitch seemed to hedge their bets a bit. Featuring a rotating cast of studio musicians and ringers such as Paul Wertico and Steve Rodby, both of these albums pitted high-energy, guitar-centric rock instrumentals against mellow, folksy saxophone-dominated ballads that occasionally wandered into the realm of smooth jazz. This schizoid stylistic stance began to resolve into something much more focused on The Third Set (Moonjune Records, 2014). Decidedly weighted in favor of crazy, high-intensity rock-jazz fusion, the band's new direction seemed to have a lot to do with their constant touring and gigging.

Tirelessly criss-crossing the country, Marbin have cemented their reputation as America's favorite instrumental jazz-rockers. At the same time, their musical focus has sharpened on a relentlessly energetic brand of music that straddles a dizzying array of styles and influences. While they don't really play jazz per se, Marbin's music has a jazzy flow and the duo's abilities as improvisers provide many of the musical chills and thrills on Goat Man and the House of the Dead. In a very real way, the Marbin are modern-day klezmers. Though they don't play traditional music, songs like the multi-sectioned, major / minor, slow-fast-slow, "Carnival" come right out of the klezmer playbook. Markovitch's distinctive, highly vocalized saxophone style, in particular, seems to come from the world of klezmer. Though his musical context is completely 21st Century, his acrobatic but highly disciplined instrumental approach seems to be derived—in no small part—from legendary clarinetists of the early-to-mid-20th Century such as Dave Tarras, Giora Feidman and Mickey Katz. He's also one of the few modern saxophonists, outside of Kenny G and Albert Ayler, who unabashedly use lots of vibrato. Rabin, on the other hand, is a pure shredder who can play in any style. Like his musical brethren Joe Bonamassa, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, he really has the wailing classic rock tone down, but—like Vai—his amazing chops don't prevent him from straying into some really interesting musical territory.

The band's latest rhythm tandem—bassist Jon Nadel and drummer Blake Jiracek—are highly adept and broad minded. Jiracek, in particular, seems to have a pretty deep understanding of the non-jazz and non-rock aspects of Marbin's music. He can also bash the traps like a beast, when needed. Like its immediate predecessor, Aggressive Hippies (self-produced, 2015), Goat Man and the House of the Dead is a cohesive collection of tunes that split the difference between high-energy, variously jazz-and blues-flecked rockers ("Escape from Hippie Mountain," "Electric Zombieland"), unapologetic 70s-style jazz-rock fusion ("Buddha Complex," "Whiskey Chaser," and "Money Train"), and oddball poly-stylistic pieces that encompass a variety of non-jazz, non-rock, and non-blues tropes. The latter grouping includes the aforementioned "Carnival," plus the tango-inflected "Goatman" and "The House of the Dead," both of which would provide an entirely appropriate musical backdrop for a modern-day spaghetti Western. Despite its foreboding title, Goat Man and the House of the Dead is full of fun and energetic music that, for all its bluster, is really easy to dance to.

Track Listing: Buddha Complex; Goatman; The House of the Dead; Whiskey Chaser (Intro); Whiskey Chaser; Electric Zombieland; Money Train; Carnival; Escape from Hippie Mountain.

Personnel: Dani Rabin: guitars, guitar synthesizer; Danny Markovitch: soprano, alto and tenor saxophones; Jon Nadel: electric bass; Blake Jiracek: drums.

Title: Goat Man & The House of the Dead | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced


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