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Progrock: Marbin, Moraine, Slivovitz, Soft Machine

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MARBIN: Breaking the Cycle (CD on Moonjune Records)

This release from 2011 offers 43 minutes of modern jazz music.

Marbin is: Dani Rabin (on guitar), Danny Markovitch (on saxophone), Paul Wertico (on drums and percussion), and Steve Rodby (on bass) (the latter pair from the Pat Methant Group). Special guests include: Jamey Haddad (from Paul Simon's band) (on percussion), Makaya McCraven (on drums), Matt Davidson, Leslie Beukelman, and Daniel White (on vocals).

Guitar and saxophone provide a vibrant nucleus for some very tasty modern jazz tunes.

The guitar is truly brilliant, delivering soaring chords that instigate immediate ecstasy with their virtuoso antics. The riffs are slippery and sly, yet focus on gut-riveting appeal with their fluid charm. The performance is captivating, whether pursuing high altitude antics of a molten character or delving into a soothing strum mode.

The saxophone offers an interesting lead accompaniment for the radiant guitarwork. The horn decorates the tunes with lavish embellishments of strikingly amiable resonance. The notes undergo sonic gymnastics as they issue forth, yet manage to fall into silvery place and generate endearing melodies of universal allure.

The percussion is suitably tempered to allow the guitar and saxophone to flourish. The rhythms provide perfectly understated locomotion. The luscious tempos are clearly evident but in an unintrusive way.

The bass is particularly subtle, producing a sinuous foundation of classic rumble.

These compositions will be of major interest to anyone with a fondness for modern jazz with a lively side. The tunes exhibit a solid animation, yet retain an intellectual charm with their serious stylings.

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MORAINE: Metamorphic Rock (CD on Moonjune Records)

This release from 2011 offers 69 minutes of jazz rock music recorded live at NEARfest in Bethlehem, PA, on June 20, 2010.

Moraine is: Dennis Rea (on guitar), Alicia DeJoi (on violin), James DeJoi (on saxophone, flute, and percussion), Kevin Millard (on 8-string extended-range bass), and Stephen Cavit (on drums and percussion). The album was produced by Steve Fisk (Soundgarden, Nirvana).

The violin delivers passionate riffs that manage to shine through the tight mesh of the other instruments. With their complex notations, these strings provide a romantic flair to the driving rock tuneage.

The guitar belts out nimble melodies of attractive luster, boosting the music's rock factor.

The drumming supports that rock milieu with dynamic propulsion, whether providing powerhouse beats or evenly temperate tempos for the music's more pensive passages.

Meanwhile, the horns add a jazz counterbalance, transforming the band's fusion into an intellectual enchantment rich with intricate interplay. The saxophone possesses a sprightly character that is reliably present throughout.

The enhanced bass produces a sultry substructure of restrained thunder, subterranean in its locale, yet stratospheric in its peppiness.

These compositions include material of a modern rock nature blended with arrangements of ancient Asian music. Regardless of the technicalities, though, the performance transforms the music into an alluring dose of captivating jazz rock that is guaranteed to mesmerize and satisfy the listener.

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SLIVOVITZ: Bani Ahead (CD on Moonjune Records)

This release from 2011 offers 43 minutes of spry progrock.

Slivovitz is: Domenico Angarano (on bass), Derek Di Perri (on harmonica), Marcella Giannini (on guitar), Salvatore Rainone (on drums), Ciro Riccardi (on trumpet), Pietro Santangelo (on saxophones), and Riccardo Villari (on violin).

A tight ensemble belting out crisply bouncy tuneage.

It's unfair to say that horns dominate this music, for each instrument meshes perfectly into a dazzling gestalt, but the trumpet and saxophones resound at the forefront of that fusion. Their mellifluous blare lends the songs a cheery voice.

The drums are snappy with complexity and charm.

The bass provides a foundational rumble of durable determination.

The guitar establishes a rock touch with slippery chords lurking in the mix.

Rather than adding a classical touch, the violin creates a gypsy air that contributes to the music's unrelenting buoyancy.

While the harmonica injects a human factor to the tunes with its homey resonance.

These compositions possess a strong cohesion, as each instrument lends its voice to a delightful unity. Combining elements of jazz, art-rock and Balkan folk music, the band's sound is remarkably pleasing. Their performances are engagingly tight. The tunes will leave the listener smiling,

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SOFT MACHINE: NDR Jazz Workshop--Hamburg, Germany, 1973 (CD & DVD on Cuneiform Records)

This release from 2010 offers 79 minutes of live modern jazz music on the CD and the DVD.

For this performance, the seminal progrock band's line-up was: Roy Babbington (on bass), Karl Jenkins (on oboe, soprano and tenor saxophones, John Marshall (on drums), and Mike Ratledge (on electric piano and organ). Joining them on several tracks were: Gary Boyle (on guitar), Art Themen (on soprano and tenor saxophones), and Hugh Hopper (on bass and tapeloops). The concert happened at Congresszentrum, in Hamburg, Germany, on May 17, 1973.

While progressive aspects are present, the emphasis is on the modern jazz disposition of this sprightly music.

The horns and woodwinds establish a lively presence throughout with frolicsome riffs. The performance is often frenetic, yet retains a fluid cohesion, expertly meshing with the other instruments.

The drums are durable and busy with inventive rhythms. The percussion are enthusiastic and engaging.

The bass provides a solid bottom, often rising to embellish melodies with some nimble-fingered delineation.

The guitar lends a sparkling tracery to the songs with its crisp augmentation.

Ah, but it's Ratledge's organ that glues it all together with slippery sweeps and squealing organ riffs, the latter delivered with such hyperactive velocity that the notes blur together.

These compositions are deeply rooted in jazz influences, yet pulsate with a youthful vigor. The tunes present a bouncy side to the normally cerebral genre, with enticing passages brimming with vibrant animation.

The DVD offers visual footage of the majority of the CD's musical offering. In fact, there are about 25 extra minutes of music on the DVD.

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