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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Marty Ehrlich - Fables (Tzadik, 2010) ****½

I rarely review world jazz albums, although they used to be very high on my listening agenda. One of my favorites is Myriam Alter's "If", with clarinet, piano, bandoneon, bass and drums, a very intimistic, melodious and yet utterly creative album.

This album by Marty Ehrlich is of the same nature, and strangely enough with almost the same line-up, here with Ehrlich on clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto and soprano sax, Hankus Netsky on piano, and accordion, Marcus Rojas on tuba, and Jerome Harris on acoustic bass guitar. Although the line-up changes regularly, with one track, "Scroll N°2", consisting of Ehrlich on all his instruments in a haunting overdub.

The recipe are world music influences in scales and mood, with long unison themes and phrases, yearning sentiments and an all-permeating melancholy, played with such refinement and sensitivity that every note is a pleasure for the ear and heart. This is about beauty of sound and execution, not about adventure, but that makes the end-result not less creative (although I can imagine that the ferocious alto on "The Lion's Tanz" will not please regular mainstream listeners).

Despite the typical klezmer influence, Ehrlich goes far beyond the often too straight-forward replication of traditional klezmer in a modern context that characterises the "Radical Jewish Culture" series. This music takes it all a level higher, making it almost genre-less, with tunes that sound familiar to the European memory of street music, or to the human subconscious "tout court".

Highlight of the album is the soprano-piano duo "Rozo D'Shabbos", a classic but so full of emotional depth, together with the dark closing tune "Scroll N°3", with accordion, bass clarinet and tuba, which suddenly shifts to full joy.

Without a doubt the most sentimental of albums I have listened to in many years, but it's luckily on the right side of tastefulness, with no cheap effects and feelings, but expressing genuine emotional depth, musical creativity and vision. Don't underestimate the feat : it is incredibly difficult to turn the familiar into something so authentic, personal and fresh. A major achievement.

Listen and download from iTunes.

© stef