Paul Brody's Sadawi / Beyond Babylon

deep. very deep. not.

Paul Brody's Sadawi / Beyond Babylon
Tzadik Radical Jewish Music TZ7188, 2004


Trumpeter Paul Brody has been deconstructing Jewish music for a couple of albums, now. This latest effort feels especially loose and interesting. It also includes four pieces based on works by others: Frank London, David Krakauer, Ben Goldberg, and Glenn Dickson.

To some degree, the music is distant. These are not explorations based on a deep sense of the original sources. Rather, in interpreting the interpretations of others, Brody exemplifies an approach that is, in effect, engaging the meta information about culture, rather than the culture, itself. Intellectually, I am pleased at that insight. Musically, it means that this sounds like music a couple of generations from direct connection to Jewish cultural sources, so that whereas someone listening, say, to Aaron Alexander's Midrash Mish Mosh can sense the original sources and their transformation, here one is first attracted to the music and the interesting nooks and crannies of same. Practically, of course, this "insight" might cause the listener to miss the fact that there is very interesting music recorded here, regardless of the purity or directness of the source. I do very much like the way Brody mixes Jewish and meta-Jewish musical elements with jazz elements and weaves them into an abstractly reconstructed tapestry. Nor are all of the elements Jewish. The closing "An eye for a you" feels more connected to Spanish Flamenco. As always, it could be me who is missing the transformation. Once music goes too far from its source, my ear is insufficiently tuned, and I sufficiently ignorant, that there are direct transforms that I simply don't hear.

Listen to the bass clarinet playing the simple theme that opens "Basketball Barmitzva" for instance, and then let your ears experience the explorations that follow. Consider "A fragment of Kafka's friend" whose source is less important than the interplay between voice sample, trumpet, accordion and clarinet. Alan Bern's accordion intro to the reconstructed "Masks and Faces" originally by Ben Goldberg catches the spirit of Goldberg's free jazz rendition nicely. The result is a relatively loose, but always engaging, engrossing interplay of sound. Brody's "Timepeace" has a slow, doina-influenced feel to it. The interplay on "Klezmer a la Bechet" is doubly fascinating, not just for its own very spacious and relatively relaxed "Sadawi" beat, but for the mental comparison with Krakauer's fiery rendition of a conversation between Bechet and Brandwein. In its own way, the ensemble reaches an intensity not much less than Krakauer's own, and similarly rocks out on London's "Golem Khosidl" in ways that make the piece feel entirely different from the original.

One of the few times when I feel that I hear another artist directly is in "Glass Dance," where Alan Bern's guest accordion playing at the start is very much his own, only gradually building in intensity and sounding more and more assimilated into the group sound.

As always, the final result is simply interesting and engaging. It is also, in the end, at least deeper than the quote from Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated (or the faux profundity of the graphic on the album cover), and seems actually to have something to say about music building on music which builds on music, each level of which requires taking the time to learn and to assimilate, and then, to move on. This album is a pleasure, and as before, I will be very interested to hear what comes next in its time, as well.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 9 Jan 2005

Personnel this recording:
Paul Brody: trumpet
Jan Hermerschmidt: clarinet, bass clarinet
Brandon Seabrook: banjo, guitar, electronics
Martin Lillich: bass
Eric Rosenthal: drums

Special Guest:
Alan Bern
: melodica (track 8), accordion (tracks 4, 5)


  1. Two be simple (Paul Brody) 5:35
  2. Basketball Barmitzva (Paul Brody) 3:35
  3. A Fragment of Kafka's Friend (Glenn Dickson, Paul Brody) 5:55
  4. Masks and Faces (Ben Goldberg) 6:19
  5. Timepeace (Paul Brody) 5:47
  6. Klezmer a la Bechet (David Krakauer) 8:54
  7. Golem Khosidl (Frank London) 10:26
  8. Glass Dance (Paul Brody) 4:07
  9. An Eye for Your (Paul Brody) 4:26

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