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Posts Tagged ‘Brin Levinson’

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Blue Fingers (3:09)
2. Inner Monologue (4:34)
3. Breaking the Cycle (4:15)
4. On the Square (4:24)
5. Café De Nuit (2:32)
6. Redline (5:21)
7. Volta (4:17)
8. The Ballad of Daniel White (4:31)
9. Down Goes the Day (2:02)
10. The Way to Riches (3:21)
11. And the Night Gave Nothing  (2:48)
12. Purple Fiddle  (4:46)
13. Last Day of August  (5:01)
14. Last Chapter of Dreaming  (3:46)

LINEUP:
Danny Markovitch – saxophone, keyboards (5, 14)
Dani Rabin – guitar
Justyn Lawrence – drums (except for 2, 5, 10)
Jae Gentile – bass (except for 5, 10)

With:
Paul Wertico – drums (2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12)
Steve Rodby – bass (5, 10, 14)
Zohar Fresco – percussion (3, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Jamey Haddad – percussion (2, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12)
Victor Garcia – trumpet (3, 12)
Matt Nelson – keyboards (4, 5, 6, 8, 13)
Rob Clearfield – keyboards (14)
Greg Spero – keyboards (14)
Leslie Beukelman – vocals (3, 5, 12, 14)
Jabari Rayford – vocals (12, 14)
Abraha Rayford – vocals (12, 14)
Caleb Willitz – vocals (3, 12, 14)
Justin Ruff – vocals (3)

Chicago-based band Marbin, founded in 2007 by Israeli-born Dani Rabin (guitar) and Danny Markovitch (saxophone), and cleverly named by conflating their two surnames, have the distinction of being one of the busiest outfits on the current non-mainstream music scene. Indeed, with hundred of gigs a year under their belt, they have even found the time to produce a video tutorial on “How to Make a Living Touring With Your Band”. Though Marbin started out as a duo, independently releasing their self-titled debut in 2009, by the time they were snapped up by Leonardo Pavkovic’s Moonjune Records (which released their sophomore effort, Breaking the Cycle, in 2011), they had become a full-fledged band, a quartet that availed itself of the collaboration of two experienced jazz-fusion musicians such as Pat Metheny alumni Paul Wertico (drums) and Steve Rodby (bass).

Two years later, Marbin are back with Last Chapter of Dreaming, recorded with drummer Justyn Lawrence and bassist Jae Gentile, who have been part of Marbin’s live incarnation since 2008, plus a host of other musicians. Wertico and Rodby are still on board as special guests, together with percussionist Jamey Haddad, who was also present on Breaking the Cycle. Among the rather lengthy list of collaborators, prog fans will recognize the name of District 97 keyboardist Rob Clearfield, who guests on one track.

Though the album is very much a team effort, very cohesive from an instrumental point of view, Rabin’s guitar and Markovitch’s sax steal the show with their scintillating interplay, denoting the ease that comes from a long partnership coupled with the sheer enjoyment of music-making. Unlike the band’s previous effort, which featured a traditional song, on Last Chapter of Dreaming vocals appear only in the shape of wordless vocalizing; while the addition of other drummers and percussionists lends an appealing sense of dynamics to the two mainmen’s exertions. The final product is a very sophisticated mix of rock, jazz and blues with hints of world music, though in some ways not as successful as the band’s previous two albums.

Especially if compared to Marbin’s debut – an exquisitely minimalistic production that made the most of Rabin and Markovitch’s impressive skills – Last Chapter of Dreaming, at least in part, takes a sharp turn in a more mainstream direction, a trend that had already surfaced in some episodes of Breaking the Cycle, though not as noticeably as here. In particular, the handful of tracks featuring vocals veer dangerously close to easy listening. While “Breaking the Cycle” (oddly enough, not featured on the album of the same title) is given a dramatic, cinematic sweep by Victor Garcia’s wistful trumpet, the airy, lullaby-like “Café de Nuit” oozes a nostalgic Old-World feel, and both “Purple Fiddle” and the title-track – with their slow, laid-back vibe – put me in mind of a slightly cheesy soundtrack for some European Seventies movie.

The more rock-oriented tracks see Marbin at their best, such as pyrotechnic opener “Blue Fingers” with its assertive, metal-tinged riffing and energetic sax, the brisk, Hammond-laced “On the Square”, and the jazzy rock’n’roll workout of “Redline” (also enhanced by discreet Hammond organ). The exhilarating “Volta”, shifting from a melodic, laid-back mood to frantic, riff-laden bursts of energy complemented by a Morricone-influenced cinematic grandiosity, is one of the undisputed highlights of the whole album – as is the subdued “The Ballad of Daniel White”, showcasing Justyn Lawrence’s superb drumming.

With 14 rather short tracks spread over 55 minutes, Last Chapter of Dreaming avoids overstaying its welcome as other, more ambitious albums do, though some of the tracks might have been omitted without too much detriment. Though a classy offering, flawlessly performed by a group of outstanding musicians, it is not as organic as its predecessor, and flirts a bit too closely with smooth jazz to find favour with lovers of the more challenging fare generally released by Moonjune Records. The album makes nevertheless for a very pleasing listening experience, and a special mention is deserved by the stunning cover artwork, courtesy of Portland-based artist Brin Levinson (also responsible for the cover of Breaking the Cycle, as well as Dissonati’s debut Reductio Ad Absurdum).

Links:
http://marbinmusic.com/

http://www.moonjune.com/mjr_web_2013/catalog_mjr/050_MARBIN_Last-Chapter-of-Dreaming_MJR050/

http://www.youtube.com/user/marbinmusic

http://brinlevinson.com/

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Can You Hear Me? (10:11)
2. Middle Man (6:41)
3. Age of Foeces (4:09)
4. MindWarp (4:31)
5. Senescence (6:59)
6. Driver (5:25)
7. The Sleeper (13:39)

LINEUP:
John Hagelbarger – keyboards, saxes, woodwinds, lead vocals (3)
John Reagan – drums
Ron Rutherford – guitar, guitar synth, keyboards, bass, lead and backing vocals

Dissonati are a trio based in the Pacific Northwest region of the US. In the spring of 2006 drummer John Reagan (formerly of late Seventies outfit Harlequin Mass) formed a band called Elsewhen with Portland-based multi-instrumentalist John Hagelbarger; later that same year the duo teamed up with Ron Rutherford, another talented multi-instrumentalist (who is also the main composer of the music featured on this album). A couple of years later bassist Bill Bainbridge joined the band, which in early 2010 changed its name to Dissonati. The band have recently enlisted the services of bassist Ryan Hankins to replace Bainbridge in their live performances.

In spite of their undeniable chops and extensive experience, Dissonati do not claim to be the best thing since sliced bread, but rather a group of people who share a common love of writing and performing music in the progressive rock vein. Although the band members grew up with the historic bands of the “golden age” of prog, Reductio Ad Absurdum successfully avoids overt derivativeness, and  manages to sound fresh and original almost against the odds – something that often eludes younger, more ambitious acts. In fact, the many prog fans who constantly feel the urge to label anything they can lay their hands on will find themselves baffled by this album, which combines the experimental bent of RIO/Avant prog with a somewhat skewed, but very present sense of accessibility.

With the exception of the two longer (though not exactly “epic-length”) tracks that bookend the album, the bulk of Reductio Ad Absurdum consists of songs between 4 and 7 minutes with a recognizable verse-chorus-verse structure, though spiced with subtly idiosyncratic details that give their music a definitely unconventional twist. For one thing, quite unusually for a band whose members have reached their full maturity, Dissonati incorporate influences that go beyond the usual Seventies icons. Indeed, nods to Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson – those standard-bearers of modern prog – can be detected in some of the more atmospheric passages of the album. However, if I had to compare Dissonati to one or more non-Seventies acts, I would mention Discipline and The Rebel Wheel,  two North American bands that share the Pacific Northwest trio’s obvious love of Van Der Graaf Generator, but have also manage to establish their own individual sound. Interestingly, it is John Hagelbarger who sounds closest to Peter Hammill in the only track where he sings, the quirky “Age of Foeces”; while Ron Rutherford’s voice is more in an understated singer-songwriter, sounding slightly hoarse and occasionally flat – which, even if not beautiful in any canonical sense, fits the music like a glove.

Opener “Can You Hear Me?” introduces the listener to Dissonati’s peculiar musical universe with doomy, industrial-sounding electronics and tense synth that blend almost seamlessly with melodic, almost catchy elements, and plenty of those mood and tempo changes that any prog fan would expect from a 10-minute track. Ron Rutherford’s dry but highly effective vocals follow the development of the musical thread, and the haunting keyboard washes and drawn-out guitar discreetly hint at Porcupine Tree, though with a personal touch. In “Middle Man” Rutherford’s deep, powerful bass lines come into their own, supported by John Reagan’s dramatic drumming and Hagelbarger’s eerie, slightly dissonant synth runs, while the chorus injects an element of catchiness that effectively blends mainstream and experimental tendencies. Hagelbarger’s solo spot, the above-mentioned “Age of Foeces”, brings to mind VDGG in the theatrical tone of the vocals, but the band’s strong individual imprint surfaces in the hammering harpsichord, twangy bass and echoing, distorted guitar solo.

With its almost infectious chorus and spacey suggestions, “MindWarp” is Rutherford’s own moment as a solo-pilot, as he handles all the instruments besides vocal duties; while “Senescence” and “Driver” juxtapose accessibility and complexity in a fashion reminiscent of Yes at their best – an impression reinforced by Rutherford’s stunningly versatile bass work offset by Reagan’s effortless drumming, often veering into jazz-rock territory. However, the album’s highlight comes right at the end, with “The Sleeper”, Dissonati’s own version of “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” – similar in structure to the legendary VDGG epic, but more cohesive and (most importantly) purified of any filler. In the 13-minute track, a haunting, almost cinematic instrumental section – sparse and darkly ominous at first, then culminating in dramatic guitar/keyboards interplay propelled by thunderous drums – is bookended by half-spoken vocals and subdued instrumental accompaniment.

With top-notch musicianship and solid compositional skills – an element that has become increasingly scarce on today’s oversaturated progressive rock scene – as well as a very sensible running time of about 50 minutes, Reductio Ad Absurdum manages to be original without trying too hard to reinvent the wheel (which is a common problem with younger bands). Eclectic without being rambling or overambitious, the album is an outstanding example of true “crossover” prog –successfully striking that elusive balance between the past and the present – and a genuinely enjoyable listen, with enough quirkiness to please those that do not like their music to take itself too seriously. The striking cover artwork, a painting (titled “Bridgehouse”) by Portland artist Brin Levinson, rounds out this unassuming but highly satisfying package.

Links:
http://www.dissonati.com/

http://brinlevinson.com

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