Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Ben Goldberg with the help of Charlie Hunter finds his way back with "Go Home"
Ben Goldberg “Go Home” (Bag 001)
Denver raised clarinetist Ben Goldberg has been around the fringes of the jazz scene for sometime now. He has boldy explored the outer limits of the music with his “Klezmer Trio” and its Ashkenazi Jewish roots, deconstructing the music of Theolonius Monk with drummer Scott Amendola and bassist Devin Hoff on his album “Plays Monk” and working with the one-time Frisell sideman, rootsy drummer Kenny Wollesen in “Junk Genius”
On "Go Home" Goldberg has returned to a more earthy, syncopated blues based music for this most successful musical offering. Driven by the lowdown beats of Scott Amendola’s drumming, the sooty, raw playing of the amazing seven string guitar virtuoso Charlie Hunter, the witty lyricism provided by trumpeter Ron Miles (also of Bill Frisell fame), ‘Goldberg’s pure toned clarinet and compositional creativity on this album never disappoints
The album combines studio music with live performances from a concert in California in 2009. The instrumentation is unique, with Goldberg’s airy clarinet showing influences of Steve Lacy’s exploratory soprano saxophone style. His sound also has deep roots in the ethnic folk music of the eastern European based Jewish Klezmer music, with some New Orleans Dixieland thrown in for good measure. It’s Hunter’s raw guitar work that really grabs your interest. His gutsy, rock-blues sound is strangely compatible with the more polished sounds of Goldberg and Miles. Amendola’s driving drums propels the group with his effective, low-down beat.
You can hear the incestuous influence of other progressive music and musicians in this collaboration. Besides the Frisell connection, I detect like sensibilities with some of the work of Ben Allison’s “Man Sized Safe” in Goldberg songs like “Wazee” and “Heads And Tails”. There is also the languishing funkiness similar to the music of the group “Slow Poke” with Michael Blake, David Tronzo, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen in a song like “TGO” (each of these albums are highly recommended.)
“Roots and Branches” has influences from south of the border. On “Ethan’s Song” Hunter and Amendola’s intuitive interaction during a live performance is captured in all of its unfettered glory. The uplifting quality of Goldberg’s clarinet inspires a free spirited exchange between himself and Miles often punctuated with precise stops and starts that leave the audience on the edge of their seat. “Inevitable” is a cross breed of down home blues and Ashkenazi celebration music, a weird but effective acknowledgment of the universality of all folk driven music. Without going into the nuances of each of these songs the total album is unexpectedly delightful.
It is Hunter’s phenomenal ability to carry challenging bass lines, while at the same time punctuating the songs with his own special brand of blues drenched chords and raucous lead lines, that set this music apart. The groove Amendola and Hunter maintain is infectious and allows Goldberg and Miles the freedom to weave their brass and reed sounds into a magical patois that crosses multiple genres of influence in marvelous and inspired ways. Goldberg wisely sought to work with Hunter, intuitively understanding that the guitarists grounded, unvarnished playing could inspire the clarinetist, back from the fringe of his ethnic and world music explorations, to the get down “Go Home” comfort and joy of this roots based music.
Musicians: Ben Goldberg (clarinet): Charlie Hunter
(7 string guitar), Scott Amendola (drums); Ron Miles (Cornet, G Trumpet).
Recorded The Bunker Studio, Brooklyn, NY and ‘live” at Throckmorton Theater, Mill Valley, CA in 2009
Tracks: TGO; Wazee, Lace, Roots and Branches, Heads and Tails, Ethan’s Song, Inevitble, Isocceles, Reparation, Papermaker.
Bold indicates favorite tracks
CHARLIE HUNTER'S AMAZING GUITAR WORK