Sunday, May 25, 2008

Zydeco Clowns and Israeli Ex-Patriates

John Ellis and Third World Love have virtually nothing in common in terms of music, although if you wanted to play six degrees of separation they have both played with Mike Moreno at some point in their careers (John Ellis on Moreno's most recent album; Avishai Cohen with Moreno on Yosvany Terry's "Metamorphosis"). Granted, that sort of random ephemera doesn't really help anyone, or tell anyone what either group sounds like, but it's illustrative of how small the jazz world is during the Monk generation (neither Ellis nor the members of Third World Love went to the Monk Institute, but they've both played with people who have, and Cohen was a finalist in the Monk Institute's trumpet competition in the late 90s). Either way, while the aesthetics of "New Blues" and "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" are totally different, they're both extremely interesting and worth listening to.

One track, titled "Zydeco Clowns on the Lawn," neatly summarizes the entirety of John Ellis' "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow." After opening up with squeals and other various clown noises, the track moves into a groove partly anchored by Gary Versace's organ, but also partly anchored by what any sane person initially thinks is a bass. A few seconds later, when it becomes clear that this funky music is actually being bottomed out by Matt Perrine's sousaphone (If you only click one link, click that one, Perrine's version of "The Washington Post March" is brilliant), it comes into focus that perhaps this is not music for sane people. This is not a problem, as far as I'm concerned; a surplus of good music isn't necessarily made for (or by, for that matter) people with good heads on their shoulders, and this music is too fun to ignore just because it's a little zany. There's almost no point in going into specific tracks, because somehow Ellis manages to give them perfect descriptions in their titles (even, somehow, when a track is called "Tattooed Teen Waltzes With Grandma"). This album is well worth a listen, maybe the jazz summer-party-record of 2008.

Third World Love, Avishai Cohen's band with Israeli partners-in-crime Yonatan Avishai (piano), Omer Avital (bass), and Daniel Freedman (drums), has the most in common with John Ellis on the title track of their "New Blues;" a mixture of middle eastern flavor and contemporary jazz harmony, but with a funky New Orleans beat, as well as an infectious melody, the track soars. And everything on the record is that good. While Avishai's sister, clarinet and saxophone player Anat, has been getting the most mention in the last two years ("New Blues" was released on her record label, Anzic) because of her constant stream of new music, Avishai deserves a lot more space in the trades. Last year he released "After the Big Rain," easily one of my favorite releases of 2007, and with "New Blues" he has staked a claim for Third World Love as one of the top young bands in jazz.

I don't know what I'll have next time to be honest (I'm living moment to moment with this blog), but expect something here on Tuesday. Maybe I'll do my "Top Five Tunes of the Spring" a few days before I had initially planned if I can't find "Esperanza" anywhere.

1 comment:

Waa? said...

This is like explaining quantum mechanics to a goat. I thought this entry was going to be about Jewish clowns playing some jazz.