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Friday, March 16, 2007

Ned Rothenberg - Inner Diaspora (Tzadik, 2007) ****½

Ned Rothenberg (sax, clarinet) creates something remarkable here : music which stands beyond any known genre. His well-known Sync trio, with Jerome Harris on bass and guitar, and Samir Chatterjee on tabla, is being completed with the master strings of Mark Feldman on violin and Erik Friedlander on cello. For the afficionadi of the Radical Jewish Culture Series of the Tzadik label : this is not the umpteenth modernization of traditional klezmer songs. This is music that stands on its own and mixes eclecticly a variety of musical genres from across the world, or rather extracts the pure essential power of expression of each of these genres in order to create something new. On their previous albums, Rothenberg's Sync already demonstrated their talent to compose beautiful melodies, forceful and odd-metered rhythms and strong improv, and this full of life and passion. But the addition of Feldman and Friedlander is a stroke of genius : it gives the music another dimension : more romantic, more classical, more depth, more timeless. Rothenberg's technique is nothing less than stunning, also on the shakuhachi, the Japanese flute, which he uses in "Minutia" as a true zen masters, as a soaring of pure sound over a multi-layered shifting muscial background. "Fuga Ladino" mixes classical ingredients with klezmer and flamenco, but in a suggestive manner, supporting the composition (I mean : this is not a circus of "watch-how-many-genres-I-master, but rather a fully functional use of the influences). "Krechtser Shpatsirn" brings a total mix, from jazzy clarinet solo, walking-bass, tabla with Karnatic singing by Chatterjee, the strings playing unisono and solo in a swirling whole. In "Fantazyor" Rothenberg demonstrates his masterly control of the circular breathing technique, in a piece which is more sober and more emotionally stronger than the previous one. This album scores high at all levels : strong compositions, intense interplay, emotional improvizations, adventurous yet accessible at the same time. In the last song moods and styles follow each other : the strings bring some dramatic menacing sounds in full power and pathos, the sax howling over a backdrop of tabla, a subtle interplay between bass and pizzicato cello evolving into group improvization and a modern classical finale. Run to the shop!