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Prolusion. MARBIN is a duo formed in 2007 by guitarist Dani Rabin and saxophonist Danny Markovitch, when they were still residing in Israel. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2009, after they had relocated to Chicago, USA, while their second album, recorded with the collaboration of Grammy Award winner Paul Wertico on drums and percussion, is slated for release in the late summer of 2010. Both Rabin and Markovitch appeared on Wertico’s latest release, “Impressions of a City”.
TRACK LIST: 1. Abadaba 6:28 2. Yodo 1:02 3. Mei 7:23 4. Miyazaki 1:40 5. Crystal Bells 5:39 6. Biwako 0:54 7. Cuba 4:22 8. Kasai 0:53 9. Rust 5:35 10. Sleep Now 1:40 LINEUP: Dani Rabin – guitars Danny Markovitch – saxophone With: Mat Davidson – vocals (3)
Analysis. Slightly longer than an EP, Marbin’s debut album is a sophisticated, rarefied effort that might be quite effectively described as modern chamber music. Recorded as a duo effort (with just one track featuring a guest vocalist for a brief performance), it hinges on the individual skills of Dani Rabin on guitar and Danny Markovitch on sax, occasionally fleshed out by the use of sampled percussion. Needless to say, it is the kind on music that relies on the listener’s careful, involved participation – not immediately energizing or captivating, its peculiar charms unfold with repeated listens, something quite rare in a world where music is seen by many as an item for quick consumption. The album is structured in a rather distinctive fashion, alternating longer compositions (the longest slightly above 7 minutes) with shorter, interlude-like pieces that, in a way, prepare the listener for tackling the more demanding stuff. While the music showcased on the album clearly uses jazz as a springboard, ambient and world influences emerge gradually at each successive listening. Marbin’s stripped-down format produces a sound that is delicate, at times almost flimsy, yet surprisingly expressive when such a quality is required. Rabin and Markovitch’s mastery of their respective instruments is impressive, yet never overplayed - which is not always the case with all-instrumental albums. Everything here is amazingly precise, reminiscent of the tastefully minimalistic nature of a lot of Far Eastern art. Indeed, as the song titles clearly indicate, the Orient is one of the major sources of inspiration for Marbin, though not so much in musical influence as in their overall approach to composition. A track like Crystal Bells lives up to its title, with its lazy, meditative guitar excursions and sounds so exquisite as to feel almost brittle - a sort of sonic Feng Shui. Mei offers 7 minutes of liquid, extremely refined guitar enhanced by wistful sax strains and faint chanting in the background. The same melancholy, almost sad mood surfaces in the seamless interaction between the two lead instruments and distinctly ambient bent of opener Abadaba, while Latin nuances grace the slow-burning near-tango of Cuba. Rust adds a slightly more assertive tone to the endearingly lazy feel shared by all the compositions, and the shorter numbers are refreshingly wispy bits of gentle virtuosity. As the above description makes abundantly clear, “Marbin” is not an album that can be fully appreciated if just left to run in the background. In spite of its ambient overtones, this is not elevator music, and possesses an authentic, yet fragile kind of beauty which needs to be slowly savoured, and not just taken for granted. A nod should also go to the funny, scared-looking rabbits gracing the album cover – even though somewhat at odds with the musical content, they provide a welcome touch of humour in a context that occasionally tends to take itself too seriously.
Conclusion. While “Marbin” is very likely to impress lovers of ambient-tinged, sophisticated jazz, those in search of energy and excitement may well be underwhelmed by the album. This is indeed a disc to be approached with the care dedicated to beautiful, fragile things – definitely not something that will have an immediate kind of impact.
RB=Raffaella Berry: July 27, 2010
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