Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sabbagh Turns Out a Joy

A few months back I mentioned a Kickstarter campaign by Jerome Sabbagh to have his new album, The Turn, released on vinyl. Well he reached his target, kept the project going through some difficult and unexpected er, turns, not least the death of Doug Sax who was involved in the mastering, some initial test pressing problems, sleeve foul ups and so forth. This month, the albums shipped to backers and the results are worth the wait.

The release comes as two LPs in separate but identical sleeves on beautiful slabs of thick vinyl, with 56 mins of music spread across four sides. Yes, you will need to get up every 15 mins or so, making you feel like you've played one of those 45rpm sets so beloved by some (not me) but even though this album is available in other formats, you will want the vinyl set. At the time of writing, Jerome tells me that he still has copies of the 500 original run an will be selling them from his web site (I backed early but still only got #226, so don't sit around on this one).

But what about the music? Well where do I start. Sabbagh's band (who have recorded together before) consists of some real top notch players, the always striking Ben Monder on guitar and a rhythm section of Ted Poor and Joe Martin  all of whom are given plenty of room to breath and play on this album. Sabbagh's sax is earthy, groove-oriented and truly captivating. The group range mostly over Sabbagh originals and a cover of Paul Motian's Once around the Park, with a mix of sombre, spacious chill giving way to high energy, driving bop. Though the soloists are captivating, it's the collective experience of four guys weaving a musical tapestry in seeming total synchronicity that gives the album its stand-out qualities for me. The opening, title track sums the mood well, a slow drawn out motif on bass and sax sets a contemplative, faintly sinister tone before drummer Poor kicks everyone into swing and Sabbagh embarks on a winding solo that is taken on by Monder who seamlessly drives us further into edginess until rejoined by Sabbath for a powerful band-in-motion ending. This album tells you these guys not only can play, but they can play seriously well together, a unified force that carves solid shapes in thin air,  and you better pay attention.

Yes, Monder goes all out in an almost Hendrixian limb on Cult, an 11 minute drama but his playing never loses perspective or jars the listener because of the brilliant accompaniments of Poor and Martin. The end result being an example of what tradition with innovation can bring to the listener prepared to give current musicians some space. Long Gone is a more traditional groove that lovers of moody sax recordings will immediately resonate with but even here, the music warrants consideration of all that the band are bringing to bear, from sweet chordal backings to percussive voices that add texture and twists to the melodies up front.

One very distinct attribute of the vinyl is that the music just seems to make more sense. I don't really know how else to explain it but even though I had the digital download of this album for a few months, I never really heard it until I spun it on my table. It's not the resolution as much as the mood-capture that the records bring. Once cued up, I have been unable to spin just one side and always end up listening through the whole album, each subsequent listen giving up more to me of this music and this recording's charm.  Listeners in my home who find some bop too jarring for their ears have enquired about this album positively when I played it for them. The Turn is a slow burner, has edge with purpose, and for me the best new jazz record I've heard in a long while.  Stop buying re-releases of old stuff you already have. Get The Turn and go see these guys;  talent this good has to be nurtured.

UPDATE -- I think the copies on his web site are now gone but you might be able to get this still through Amazon. Sounds to me as if this release needs to be backed by a label with more copies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Acoustic Sounds will be selling a new QRP pressing of the album on July 24, 2015. According to the website, the 180 gram pressing comes with a download code. I assume the pressing will be pressed across 4 sides like the limited edition Kickstarter.