Friday, January 8, 2016

AKA Balkan Moon, AlefBa Double Live

Music can do what politics and endless battalions of soldiers seemingly cannot, that is, take the musical commonalities of adjacent and at times opposing cultural groups and make (in the right hands) for a peaceful coexistence or even a mutual flourishing. AKA Balkan Moon is such a musical force. On their two-CD set AlefBa Double Live (Outhere/Instinct 657) they show us how to make a very vibrant music combining Mid-Eastern, Baltic and jazz-rock influences and transforming them into something very vibrantly modern.

The core of the group is the trio of Fabrizio Cassol on alto saxophone, Michel Hatzigeorgiou on Fender Jazz bass, and Stephane Galland on drums. The core is joined by two different live congregations of musicians, basically distinct for each disk. Disk one adds a more Baltic-Western instrumentation of vocals, violin. kaval, piano, soprano saxophone, tupan drum and morsing. Disk two features a Mid-Eastern oriented instrumentation of vocals, flute, ouds, trumpet, santur, violin, darbuka and guitar.

And they do what ISIS would most certainly despise, that is, find musical grounds for a pan-regional solidarity, a peace of musical understanding. But as that goes it does so with some really engaging music, a fusion of jazz-rock elements with world Mid-Eastern/Baltic intricacies.

It does so with really superb arrangements and performances, world-class with original brilliance. As the old ad slogan had it (at least around New York) when I was a kid, "You don't have to be Jewish to Love Levy's." So also you don't have to be Mid-Eastern or Baltic to love Balkan Moon! This is music so accomplished and engaging you can appreciate it even if you are not part of the cultural complexes that make such a wonderful hybrid music possible.

It is some extraordinary music. It is the music of peace! But it is the music of excellence, too. Hear this one, by all means.

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