Alex Kontorovich /
If the world were big enough for him, Alex Kontorovich would be one of the rising stars of the klezmer world. He first attracte notice as one of the founding stars of the Klez Dispensers, one of the few college klezmer bands to earn a reputation for solid basics, as well as for pushing the definition of Jewish dance music. He quickly went from one of the bright students at KlezKamp and KlezKanada to a valued instructor. And continues to grow musically
This CD is his first release under his own name, and while it reflects a thorough grounding in klezmer, it will be heard primarily as an outstanding jazz album. Featuring Kontorovich on woodwinds, fretted instrument wizard Brandon Seabrook, percussionist Aaron Alexander, and bassist Reuben Radding (try on the intro to "New Orleans Funeral March" for size) turn this into an outstanding ensemble effort.
The opening "Transit Strike Blues" seems jazzy enough, but then, "Kandels Burning" takes us through a solidly jazzed-up klezmer celebration (offering props to early American klezmer recording star Harry Kandel). "Nossim Hora" starts from a similarly traditional klezmer riff, until Seabrook and Kontorovich begin deconstructing the melody. The "New Orleans Funeral March" blends a slow blues with guitar electronics and Kontorovich's avant garde explorations, which the equally thoughtful "Waltz for Piazzolla" keeps the pace slow, but intensity high.
Like fellow youngsters Michael Winograd and Dan Blacksberg, Kontorovich is not only "klezmer native," but native in many other musics and cultures. Listen to him wail on "Sirba" while Radding keeps pace with his bass thrum, and then Alexander crashes in with great rhythm and noise in perfect counter as the intensity becomes unbearable and the exuberance unrestrainable. In this recording Kontorovich pulls from all of his roots, from Russian and Cuban music ("AfroJewban Suite") to Jewish to Jazz, and creates something new, exciting. If this is just the beginning, one listens also partly in awe as to what may what over time. In the meantime, this is a bridge to jazz, jazz listeners, and into a future in which klezmer is one driving, danceable part of something new, as yet unclassified. Works for me.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 24 Feb 2008.
Personnel this recording:
Aaron Alexander: drums
Reuben Radding: bass
Brandon Seabrook: guitar, banjo, tapes
Alex Kontorovich: clarinet, alto saxophone
- Transit Strike Blues 3:31
- Kandels Burning 7:51
- Waltz for Piazzolla 6:12
- Sirba 7:41
- Nossim Hora 7:00
- Afro-Jewban Suite 6:46
- Tzitzit 5:21
All selections composed by Alex Kontorovich