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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Yoni Kretzmer - Protest Music (Out Now Recordings, 2014) ****

By Ed Pettersen

This is the second record I’ve been asked by the FJB to review this month where I knew absolutely nothing about the artist beforehand but yet again it’s a revelation.  Every track bristles with verve, passion and creativity and Protest Music is the perfect title for it as each track urges you to feel something, asks you make a stand without making you angry or agitated.  Call it compassionate provocation.

Yoni Kretzmer is an Israeli saxophonist who currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.  He began practicing his particular blend of classical and free jazz in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and studied at the American School of Modern Music in Paris.  The band is only bass, drums and sax yet is excellent on this record and you’d think they had been playing together for ages though they’ve only been working for a short time (Mr. Kretzmer has a few units he works with since his move to the U.S.).  They are seamless and the interplay between them stellar, evocative and inspiring.  They sound like much more than just three pieces.  It strikes me that Mr. Kretzmer is probably highly influenced by Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and a bit of Sam Rivers but explores the lower registers of his sax more than those legends which is a good thing in my mind.  It would be too easy to mine the same territory in this style yet I found this music wholly original. The songs on Protest Music - This, Is, Our, Very, First, Album, Together - have a lot of variety for such a small band and though a lot is going on to propel the songs there’s plenty of room to breathe too.  None of the songs are very long, the longest is just over 9 minutes, but they hold your attention at every note and leave you wanting more.  Perfect.

The group is Mr. Kretzmer on sax, Pascal Niggenkemper on double bass and Weasel Walter on drums.  It was beautifully recorded at Park West Studios in Brooklyn by Jim Clouse.  Due to his classical studies he brings a unique sensibility to his craft and I think you’ll hear that classical influence in his songs.  He’s obviously found some very sympathetic players to his compositions.  This is terrific stuff.  I look forward to hearing more from this terrific young instrumentalist and composer.  I listened to this album at least four times while writing this review and will go back to Protest Music a lot more in the future.  Highly recommended.