Monday, October 03, 2011

Eugene Marlow - NYC Jazz Record

Eugene Marlow Heritage Ensemble - A Fresh Take

Although this is the third release by Eugene Marlow’s
Heritage Ensemble, all but one of the nine tunes here
appeared on their debut release five years ago. The
difference on this new album is that pianist Marlow
has equipped himself with the twin attack of drummer
Bobby Sanabria and percussionist Cristian Rivera,
resulting in a cross-cultural collaboration that spins
and grooves briskly throughout.

The “heritage” in question is that of the Israelites.
All of the songs performed by Marlow’s ensemble are
Hebraic melodies - a source that works primarily
because the arrangements simply highlight the band’s
camaraderie. The album introduces itself with a
popping Latin pulse that immediately showcases the
strong interplay between the drummers. Like later
track “Bilbililos”, saxophonist Michael Hashim draws
Middle Eastern-tinged riffs from his shrill soprano,
flickering throughout his range before making way for
a drum solo. “Heine Ma Tov” has a light boogaloo feel
while Marlow’s wandering introduction to “V’Taher
Lebeinu/Yis Ma Chu” evokes a little “My Heart
Belongs to Daddy” before the entire band churns
through a straightahead blast that quietly returns to its
subtle beginnings.

“Adon Olam”, the lone new addition to the
repertoire, features Marlow’s piano in unison with
vocalist Rachel Kara Perez. Singing in Hebrew, Perez’
voice drifts and sighs for most of the song but it never
really builds much and the extended jam ends with a
crash of the cymbals. The album closes with “Avinu
Malkeinu” - a percussive stampede as energetic as the
opener. Hashim wails over an unending barrage of
percussion that pushes everyone else to a frenetic pace
with great support from Marlow.

All of the tracks are tinged by a modal sensibility
that barely dances with the realm of world music.
Marlow’s use of Hebraic melodies is an interesting
idea. It isn’t necessary to know the reference material
to enjoy the album. It may help but most importantly
the album transcends the cultural specificity of the
songs and just sounds like a well-oiled jazz band
working through a set of original arrangements.

Eugene Marlow @ NYC Jazz Record

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