Eminent American clarinetist Ben Goldberg is an integral component of this Canadian ensemble's buoyant and cleverly articulated blend of traditional Jewish music, rock and modern jazz for John Zorn's enterprising New York-based Tzadik record label. In effect, the band traverses through luxuriant musical terrain, comprised of popping grooves, hummable melodic hooks and crisp, keys-based jazz fusion amid some multihued electronics effects for shading and to intersperse a few off-kilter foibles into the program. Moreover, Goldberg's supple lines often outline the melodic component as keyboardist Jonathan Feldman and guitarist Joel Schwartz receive ample soloing opportunities throughout.
The artists' transparent genre-hopping manifesto radiates on "Breath of Life," where they fuse multiple stylizations into a branded group sound. Here, Jonathan Feldman tricks the listener into thinking that a laid-back blues vamp will establish a pace for the subsequent proceedings with his soul-stirring Fender Rhodes work. Yet they spin this yarn into a delightful, upbeat Latin-Middle Eastern groove via the frontline's contrasting motifs and peppery soloing escapades. And during the bridge, they take you to a Jewish wedding while executing several variations of the primary theme, but tone it all down and slowly engage in a rebuilding process. Guitarist Joel Schwartz even tosses in some surf guitar licks, crystallized by Goldberg's spiraling notes and the pumping rhythms. Thus, Zebrina is a band that perpetuates unrelenting optimism and a celebratory posture. With Feldman's spunky compositions, the musicians' interlock that sometimes elusive characteristic of merging impressive technical acumen with honest-to-goodness entertainment.
Personnel: Ben Goldberg: b-flat clarinet, e-flat contra-alto clarinet; Jonathan Feldman: Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3 Organ; Bret Higgins: electric bass; Juan Carlos Medrano: percussion; Joel Schwartz: electric guitar, resonator guitar; Max Senitt: drums.
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