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Babkas is an provocative trio of Downtown New York improvisor/composers -- alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss, guitarist Brad Schoeppach, and drummer Aaron Alexander. Their work draws on all manner of modernist musical resources, from rock, funk, and jazz, to contemporary classical. The resulting composite is rather greater than the sum of the parts, for Babkas has developed a pleasantly unconventional blend of the composed and improvised. The written melodies are most irregular, as are the structures they blow over -- there's a nice coherence to their sound that comes from regulating, to an extent, the freedom which they allow themselves. Krauss is a wonderful player, with a lissome phraseology and an agreeably woody tone. Schoeppach has superb technique and taste, as does Alexander. In some ways, Babkas acknowledges jazz's tradition as an essentially popular music, while keeping a foot and a half on the side of "high art." A band to watch.

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