David Buchbinder

Odessa/Havana

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The reason for the introduction is as a point of reference for this knockout recording by trumpeter/composer David Buchbinder and pianist/composer Hilario Durán, who take the world of klezmer and the world of Latin music and try to find where the seemingly wide seams come together. One need only listen to the phrasing, pace, and minor key melodies of some of klezmer to see its commonalities with Latin music. But what has been accomplished here is nothing short of remarkable. Buchbinder wrote four tunes, Durán, three, and they co-wrote another. The ensemble, made of their two instruments, bassist Roberto Occipinti, conguero Jorge Luis Torres, violinist Aleksander Gajic, saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff, Rick Lazar on dumbek and other percussion, and alternating drummers Mark Kelso and Dafnis Prieto, makes for a very adventurous and highly skilled ensemble. It appears that the place where these two traditions meet, according to Buchbinder note in the booklet, was in medieval Moorish Spain and is filtered through the Jewish mambo craze of the 1950s. The evidence for this is in the first cut, where the beautiful bulgur meets the mambo and becomes something of a wild whirl of klezmerish salsa that swings like mad with a sultry nocturnal joy in "Liala Dance." To be honest, just this tune is an accomplishment; they could have stopped right here. The complete interweaving of these two musics, neither giving up a shred of its individual identity in the process, is quite literally stunning. Likewise, Durán's "Impresiones," with its son montuno introduction, is moved via violin and tenor saxophone toward the jazzier side of Yiddish folk music, with its beautiful modalities and chromatic spectrum. Rhythms cross and blend, and time becomes spacious and utterly flexible in this world. Durán's harmonic vamps are breathtaking. The most haunting and beautiful tune on the set is "Cadiz" by Buchbinder. Its droning introduction fills space with the longing of the diasporas of the two, from Al-Andalus in Spain to Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and parts west and south the conquistadors traveled, and from Spain to other parts of Europe, where Jews became inseparable from the various landscapes and cultures they entered and, in some cases, transformed. Musically "Cadiz" is a powerhouse of a suite because its wailing Balkanized klezmer hora dancing structure meets the beautiful son folk form and then grafts itself across the montuno and back to the Balkans. The set closes with the killer "Freylehks Tumbao" by Durán. Virtually everything from both traditions is embodied here and is given articulation not only in the habanera rhythms but the beautiful Bulgarian wedding dance charge of the brass, reed, and violin. Odessa/Havana is an utterly brilliant and deeply moving collaboration that gives an entirely new meaning to the term "world fusion." It acknowledges openly the root sources that these two long traditions evolved out of and now inform one another. What makes this possible -- perhaps -- is the union of these two forms in present-day jazz, which has always been the great equalizer, and here becomes the ambassador for these two long separate traditions to converse in; not only of the past, but of the present and future as well. Odessa/Havana is one of the great jazz records of 2007.

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