Breaking the Cycle

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Cue up "Loopy," the first track on Marbin's Breaking the Cycle, and you likely won't be able to pigeonhole the band. The Grateful Dead could come to mind first, given the rolling drums and resonant bass of Pat Metheny rhythm team Paul Wertico and Steve Rodby. But the two introductory chords delivered by guitarist Dani Rabin are right out of "Tobacco Road," and the invigorating melody line could soundtrack a scene of clipper ships sailing o'er the bounding main. So, what have we here? Danny Markovitch's spirited soprano sax solo soon answers the question in part -- Marbin can be exciting jazzers when they see fit -- and when Rabin soon reveals himself to be a fusioneer of the Holdsworth/Etheridge school (with touches of Frisell-ish expansiveness), the band's presence on MoonJune makes complete sense. Still, the album proves a sometimes curious mix. Third track "Mom's Song" is just what any mom would like when it's baby's sleepy time: gentle wordless vocals, cymbal washes, and a lullaby-like melody to transport baby off to dreamland. Sigh. OK, is baby asleep yet? Time for track four: "Bar Stomp." Rabin is ready for trouble, with dirty slide guitar runs over a noisy blues-rock beat as subtle as a sledgehammer. In the blink of an eye Marbin have gone from rocking the cradle to rawking the crib. However, despite interludes of pedal-to-the-metal fire, Breaking the Cycle often cruises on the softer side. Right after the heat of "Bar Stomp," Markovitch mellows things back out on "Outdoor Revolution," his soprano lines never overwhelming Rabin's acoustic guitar strums even when the chords reach for something epic. "Mom's Song"-style wordless vocalizing returns in "Western Sky," while there are shades of lilting Brazilian jazz on "A Serious Man," with compatriots Rabin and Markovitch pairing up on an ascending unison line light as a kitten scampering up a staircase. "Claire's Indigo" -- one of many tracks in the two- to three-minute range -- features atmospheric touches that hint at Martin Denny exotica, continuing the gentle vibe deeper into the album. Then there is the concluding "Winds of Grace," featuring the sudden appearance of vocalist Daniel White, singing his own poetic lyrics on a track that seemingly attempts to meld earnest folkiness with the drama of King Crimson's "Epitaph." Ultimately, Breaking the Cycle suggests Marbin can skillfully tackle pretty much anything that touches even remotely on jazz-rock fusion, which they're eager to prove as the album proceeds along its variegated sonic journey. Just remember to turn the music down between tracks three and four. Shhh, baby is sleeping.

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