As a celebration of being signed to John Zorn’s record label Tzadik records as well as recording a brand new album, Jonathan Feldman’s group Zebrina performed an exhilarating concert to a sold-out audience. What is amazing is that I have not seen so many people pack the house to catch a klezmer jazz fusion band that brings creative, inventive jazz at the forefront with its tight grooves, meticulous composition, and soulful playing at its best.
The band for the evening consisted of keyboardist/composer Jonathan Feldman, bassist Bret Higgins, guitarist Joel Schwartz, Juan Carlos Medrano on percussion and Max Senitt on drums. The band was joined by two special guests, consisting of San Francisco-based clarinetist Ben Goldberg and local Toronto trumpeter David Buchbinder.
All of the songs performed were written by Jonathan Feldman, and I must say that he is a composer to watch in new jazz and klezmer music. His music draws influences ranging from blues, funk, soul and Middle Eastern music, fusing it into an organic sound that is completely original and completely its own.
I want to comment on three of my favourite pieces of the evening. “The Spirit Within” is a moody, groovy, spaced out composition, which is wide open to improvisation and to further, out explorations with the group. It is one of my favourite new songs and this should be in the constant live repertoire of the group. “Breath of Life” has an intro in which Feldman interpolates everything from Wayne Shorter’s Footprints, the classic Jewish standard “Hava Nagila”, Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” and Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are” before breaking into an explorative groove. Feldman is a very creative and fresh voice and thanks to his signing on Tzadik Records he is going to go places with his intriguing music.
“Chant of the Ages” is a great Latin inspired tune that brought up special guest David Buchbinder along with the rest of the working band. It was a great fusion of Latin rhythms and melodies with Jewish liturgy and practice.
I have heard this band three times and I must say that thanks to guys like Feldman jazz music is going further and building new audiences to like its music. Overall, it was a hugely successful and powerful night from a great band that is taking off in big and bold ways.
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