Sunday, January 27, 2008

Steven Bernstein - Diaspora Suite (Tzadik, 2008)

The newest chapter in trumpeter Bernstein's ever evolving Diaspora series adds some electricity to the mix and explores territory opened up by the likes of Miles Davis's 1970's improvisational funk bands and John Zorn's Electric Masada. Joining Bernstein on this disc are a really heavy hitting crew including Peter Apfelbaum on tenor saxophone and flute, Ben Goldberg on clarinet, John Schott, Nels Cline and Will Bernard on guitar, Scott Amandola on drums, Jeff Cressman on trombone, Devin Hoff on bass and Josh Jones on drums and percussion. The music is a consistently exciting and interesting melding of the middle eastern music that Bernstein has mapped out before and rock and funk elements. This comes through clearly on tracks like "Benjamin," where snarling electric guitar leads over thumping drums on a steaming rocker. Ben Goldberg is the key here as he is throughout the disc - whether soloing or playing in the ensemble, his swirling clarinet adds texture and depth, never letting this powerful music become merely an exercise in chest thumping bravado. He also shines on "Ruben" where the clarinet swoops and soars over a bed of horns. The band gets funky on "Simeon" where Hoff's deep Michael Henderson like bass lines set the table for wah-wah guitar and Apfelbaum's strong and deep tenor saxophone. Steven Bernstein had set the bar very high with previous editions in this series, but he has outdone himself here. Merging diverse musical genres with open minded and talented musicians has produced a very powerful and unique musical statement.

Send comments to: Tim