The members of Pachora have well-deserved reputations for their innovative work on the exploratory side of New York avant-garde jazz, so the band's debut release might be considered relatively straightforward -- even traditional -- when compared to much of their music in other settings. Yet the quartet's interpretations of folk music styles from Eastern European and Mediterranean regions sound completely fresh and contemporary, certainly possessing that New York downtown edge. Phenomenal performances are turned in by everyone, including Chris Speed on clarinet, Brad Shepik on Portuguese guitar and electric saz, and Skuli Sverrisson on electric bass. Particularly noteworthy is the crisp percussion of Jim Black on drums and dumbek, driving the up-tempo numbers relentlessly forward without once distracting the listener's attention from Speed's sometimes-fragile tones. The clarinetist's "Old Things" features a seamless melding of influences, beginning in Middle Eastern modes with opportunities for both Sverrisson and Shepik to burn up the frets before the tune shifts harmonically westward into a middle section with folkish strumming in 9/8 and a dramatically building chord progression beneath Speed's sailing clarinet. Elsewhere, Speed and Shepik's "Buchini" is a vehicle for Pachora as world fusion jam band, with Shepik unleashing a solo filled with staccato phrasing over a churning rhythm, and the quartet reveals their understated, evocative side in the moody "Sere" (by Shepik), which unfolds its lovely melodies at a slower, nearly solemn pace. A wonderful release from musicians who breathe new life into old traditions, finding beauty in a place where the ancient and modern meet.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Lynch