Paul Brody’s Sadawi

Far from Moldova
Morgenland ML 7001

Most likely the hippest and most musically varied Klezmer-inflected CD featuring two guys named Christian, Far from Moldova is all that and more. The brainchild of Berlin-based, California transplant, trumpeter Paul Brody, the CD and his band Sadawi enjoyably mixes together strands of Jazz, Klez, Rock and notated music. Having some of the German capital’s most advanced players in the band helps as well.

Not that Brody is any slouch in the versatility department. After graduating from Boston’s New England Conservatory focused on Third-Stream music, he’s toiled in pit bands, backed pop singers, recorded a couple of children’s records and is probably best-known for a trio with pianist/accordionist Alan Bern and guitarist Michael Rodach.

Sadawi’s rhythm section is made up of two-thirds of the band SQUAKK, who individually also work with, among others pianist Ulrich Gumpert – drummer Michael Griener – or as part of Monk’s Casino – bassist Jan Roder. One Christian, guitarist Christian Koegel also plays pop music and Blues; while the other evidently understands the humor of his position. Considered a leading Klezmer clarinetist, Christian Dawid co-founded the Bremen-based group Klezgoyim in 1993.

Not that there’s any attempt to define Sadawi as a kosher Klezmer band. “Datina” for instance, suggests capriccios, Eastern Europe dances, Rock guitar heroics and Ornette Coleman in equal measures. As it runs its course, Koegel speedy reverb and wah-wah pedal pressure help keep the stop-time measures moving, aided by splash cymbal and drum top smashes. Meanwhile Brody’s bouncing and echoing trumpet line come from another place where Elmer Bernstein meets Ziggy Ellman.

The trumpeter’s academic brass investigations are given a showcase on “Goldberg Deviation” based on a 1908 band recording from Istanbul. Atmospheric and affecting, his moderated, shifting tone is framed by bowed bass, clenched guitar strums and adagio cymbal pops. And don’t forget “Misfit”, described in part as “Jewish Bartok”, but sounding more like would happen if a traditional Swing Era arrangement was fused to a drummer’s shuffle beat and highlighted by woody bass thumps.

Figurative and expressive, the CD’s centre resolves around the three-part “Erwin Schulhoff Suite”. Reinterpreting three forward-looking pieces by Czech composer Schulhoff (1894–1942), whose Jewish-German origin, Communist-leaning and atonal music orientation contributed to his incarceration and death in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, Brody and band extend the Jazz and other influences Schulhoff first highlighted. Intentionally or not, Ellman’s bent-note, fralicher-like timbre makes an appearance on “Partita Motif”. Initially influenced by Ragtime, the motif now features a chuckling clarinet obbligato, ringing, surf-styled guitar licks and eventually choked-valve emotionalism from the trumpeter. After a final tutti passage with lowing l contributions from all, the heads is recapped jocularly. Elsewhere, poignancy dribbles from the horn part on “Mechanical Reproduction”; but the squirming and burbling treatment highlights an early utilization of studio techniques. In contrast, “Worlds Apart” updates the composer’s Third Stream-leanings. With Jazz-inflected string plucks, a walking bass beat with hora overtones and gritty trumpet triplets, the piece is both tonal and free-form.

Too varied to be consigned to the Klezmer music shtetl, yet chock-a-block with more influences than any straight-ahead Jazz CD, Far from Moldova should be investigated by anyone interested in evolving, non-classifiable music.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Far From Moldova Suite: 1. Persian Hora 2. Oamini Bun 3. Datina/Erwin Schulhoff Suite: 4. Worlds Apart 5. Mechanical Reproduction 6.Partita Motif/The Last Three Pieces: 7 Behind The Fog* 8. Goldberg Deviation 9. Misfit

Personnel: Paul Brody (trumpet); Christian Dawid (clarinet and bass clarinet); Christian Koegel (guitar); Jan Roder or Martin Lillich* (bass) and Michael Griener (drums)