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02 August 2008

Review: David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana

Review: David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana

David Buchbinder has been around the muisc scene for a long time as a performer and composer. His newest project, Odessa/Havana, has the tag line “The explosive Jewish/Cuban musical mash-up.” While true, this barely scratches the surface of what this music really is all about. Odessa/Havana breaks new ground, firmly landing in a new musical genre that results in a fresh approach to what we call World Music, though it really is described better by Buchbinder as World Jazz. “This is not traditional music from either side, but original music filtered through Cuban and Jewish sensibilities.Cuban and Jewish elements are used as raw material to create something new,” he says.

Odessa/Havana is a musical adventure unlike any in recent memory. At first listen, the album seems to be Jazz-centric, but when you listen further you cannot help being drawn into a world of multi-cultural influenced music that goes way beyond the boundaries of Jazz. Buchbinder describes it as”a new direction of jazz in the macro sense.”

The opening track, Lailadance, is indicative of this new direction. Familiar Jewish instrumentation of Trumpet, Clarinet, and Violin, is joined by Afro-Cuban Piano, Bass, Drums, and Percussion. Some of the finest musicianship anywhere is on display here and I was immediately drawn in by the rhythms and the melodies. The music is both refreshing and exciting.

Duran’s Impresiones continues this exploration of styles with an introduction from Buchbinder and Duran that I see as a Cuban Doina with Trumpet and Piano, then Bass and Percussion bring us to the main theme where Trumpet and Sax play in octave unison with th Violin puctuating the lines in a Progressive Jazz context. Great solos from Sax, Piano, and Violin round out the action.

My personal favorite and, I feel, most engaging piece is Cadiz, written by Buchbinder. The track starts with slow out of time Piano/Bass with the opening theme, then Trumpet and Violin take turns with Judeo-Spanish styled solos. Then the tempo picks up and starts a progressive Afro-Latin groove, and leaves room for more solos, then finally returns to the slow opening theme to end this, the longest piece on the album. Buchbinder cites a number of cultural influences in writing this piece: Jewish, Arabic, African, Free Jazz, Roma. Cadiz is, according to Buchbinder, not technically Cuban or Jewish, but takes both these sounds and creates a new world from within.

My second favorite is Prayer. If there is such a thing as Jewish-Cuban Blues, Buchbinder has found it here. It is the most melodiacally beautiful piece on the album. The opening Bass solo gives way to a very sesitive Trumpet, followed by a lovely Violin/Oud duet and then Soprano Sax/Trumpet. Buchbinder then gives a great jazz ballad solo before bringing the Violin/Sax/Oud back to the theme. The song ends with an unresolved chord, which corresponds perfectly to an unanswered prayer.

Colaboracion is descriptive of this joint Buchbinder/Duran composition. Piano/Percussion set the tone for a Jewish-styled Violin solo followed by a free-jazz Trumpet solo and a mainstream Sax solo. I like the Piano groove that Duran lays down, and particularly the coda of the last minute of the song, a groovy outro that comes from nowhere. Very inventive stuff that I can’t get enough of.

The closer, a great encore piece, is Freylekhs Tumbao. Buchbinder gave Duran some Klezmer tunes to work with, and the result is a great take on these tunes from a Latin perspective. Nothing corny here, this medley takes on Klezmer head on and presents it in a sizzling flurry of Latin beats and percussion.

I have always loved Jazz, and Afro-Cuban Jazz in particular. To match it with Jewish-Klezmer is a dream come true, and I thank David Buchbinder and Hilario Duran for bringing these two world together and creating something that is truly unique and has the potential to further expand multiculturalism through Jazz. I can’t wait to see what they will come up with next. In the meantime, I will keep listening to Odessa/Havana and enjoying the spirit that infuses their music.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana
2007 Tzadik
TZ 8121

1. Lailadance 5:41
2. ImpresiĆ³nes 6:41
3. Cadiz 9:34
4. Next One Rising 6:46
5. Rumba Judia 3:38
6. Prayer 4:21
7. ColaboraciĆ³n 8:34
8. Freylekhs Tumbao 4:38

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