Expectations are necessarily guarded when preparing to appraise a recording by the Nebula Project whose leader plays accordion. Be that as it may, any such uneasiness is quickly erased by Ben Rosenblum
and his doughty ensemble whose music is decidedly colorful, melodic and accessiblewhich is not meant to undervalue diversity, another of its discernible points. Rosenblum, who wrote seven of the album's ten numbers, draws on influences as varied as klezmer jazz, Bulgarian folk music and even Johannes Brahms to weave a richly colored tapestry whose purpose is to entice the listener's ears with its charm and contrast.
Rosenblum's group is basically a sextet (accordion or piano, trumpet, tenor saxophone and rhythm), enlarged on four numbers by trombone, vibraphone and / or a second piano, that of Jeremy Corren
. To add more color, tenor Jasper Dutz
doubles on bass clarinet on Rosenblum's twin speedsters, "Halfway to Wonderland" and "Laughing on the Inside." And to heighten the variety, Rosenblum inserts Leonard Bernstein's plaintive "Somewhere" (from Broadway's West Side Story
) and Neil Young's haunting ballad, "Philadelphia," opens with a crisp salute to the late pianist Cedar Walton
("Cedar Place") and closes with a Bulgarian folk song, "Izpoved."
Rosenblum, basically a pianist until recent years, doesn't solo often, but when he does it's enough to awaken thoughts that the accordion's status as a jazz instrument may have been undervalued. As for the others, Tucker and Dutz are deft and resourceful, while vibraphonist Jake Chapman
adds a lively voice on the playful "Kites and Strings" (he's also present but rather less noticeable on the meditative "Bright Above Us"). The rhythm section (guitarist Rafael Rosa
, bassist Marty Jaffe
and drummer Ben Zweig
, the last two a part of Rosenblum's working trio) is firm and supportive, and Zweig offers a strong solo on "Laughing on the Inside." Kites and Strings
is Rosenblum's third album as leader but his first as captain of the Nebula Project. Based on this smooth-sailing maiden voyage, a second cruise would seem to be more mandatory than elective.
Cedar Place; Kites and Strings; Halfway to Wonderland; Fight or Flight; Somewhere;
Philadelphia; Bright Above Us; Laughing on the Inside; Izpoved.