Back in high school I didn’t sleep too well so I would lie in bed at night listening to talk radio. Not the normal kind of talk radio that one hears during the day, but the kind reserved for people who are still awake and listening to a radio program at 3:00 in the morning. There were shows about Alien theories, a lot of preachers reading bible verses, and sometimes just a British guy reading off the news happening in countries I’d never heard of. I don’t remember quite how or why or if by accident I had turned the dial one night and began to hear the low wail of a saxophone. It was at once the coolest and saddest thing I’d ever heard up until that point. I lay in bed listening, stunned until the song was over. Then there was what seemed an indefinite amount of dead airtime before a man’s breathy whisper came on and announced the song I had just heard was a track from A Love Supreme by John Coltrane.
This dear old memory was dislodged from my brain after listening to Tangibility the debut record from Klazz-Ma-Tazz, the New York based Klezmer infused jazz band fronted by composer and violinist Benjamin Sutin. The cast and crew of Klazz-Ma-Tazz is rounded out by saxophonist/clarinetist Elijah Shiffer, pianist Ben Rosenblum, Grant Goldstein on the guitar, Mathew Muntz playing bass, Matt Scarano behind the drums and Ani Challa rocking the tabla.
There are certain jazz records I think that can be listened to on a stereo with A Love Supreme being one such record and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue being another. Here are just two albums which one can listen to at home or in a car and still get the raw emotional feel both Coltrane and Davis were trying to get across. As far as Tangibility is concerned, though it is a very fine record, is full of buildups and breakdowns and the album didn’t strike me in the same sense. Likely because Klezmer is derived from a time when music was always live and played at large gatherings rather than for a sole listener.
Not that this inhibits Tangibility completely.
The nine-plus-minute title track, which begins as a jazz piano standard takes its time, entrancing the listener and then before you know it shifts into the violin driven nuances of eastern European folk. Then there is “Misirlou” which begins with beautiful waltzing movements that then give way to a wild and pleasantly unexpected jam session. “Speak the Truth” happens upon this same semi-free jazz feeling, where structure leads to breakdown and then back to structure again. Tangibility switches up the pace and closes with the quiet guitar and piano duet “Kluez.”
As far as fusion genres go it seems somewhat natural to combine the gypsy folk roots of Klezmer with traditional jazz, and when it works well it works well and when it doesn’t it doesn’t. There are times when these two genres just seem to be trying to fight each other for center stage and much of it has to do with the violin fighting the traditional jazz instrumentation, so that the feeling is they are not working in harmony. With that being said when the two work well together it is really like nothing else out there. A record is of course a pretty standard and much needed piece of contraband for a band to have. And though Tangibility is a fine album, as I listened to it I couldn’t help but wish that I was listening to Klazz-Ma-Tazz live. They have an energy that can be sensed through listening, which I can only assume must be quite tangible when heard live.
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