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"The Lemon Juice Quartet is a group of
highly talented musicians, with significant command of their instruments.
That has become the norm, the expectation given the proliferation of music, and
specifically jazz education. What makes them unique is several
things. They draw from a rainbow of musical genres. They filter
those through their individual and group conscious awareness and
experience-energy-sensitivity, musical-technical grid. The result is a
definitely improvised, and impressively expressed palette of sounds that tends,
as the records label alludes to on the jacket, to challenge
categorization. Yes, the music is definitely improvised, energized and
replete with unexpected twists and turns. It is the selection of
compositions by Erik Satie and Bela Bartok that provide the stabilizing
foundation from which the musical excursions by Lemon Juice have a constant - a
"Bear Dance," by Bela Bartok, the
opening track is agitated. Cohen solos impressively on trumpet. His
intonation and technique are impressive. The structure on this piece
sounds to be more about the shared energy of the group in tandem with his
breath, than about the development of motives from his work. The drums and
bass are locked in on a straight eighth note, klezmer-sounding
underpinning. The groove changes a couple of times within the piece,
delineating different sections.
Satie's "Trumpets of the Rosicrucian
Order" is a bit more relaxed. Maoz' linear solo over the minimalist
bass drum accompaniment, and the absence of piano, leaves the harmonic
definition more up to the listener.
Trumpeter Cohen, and Maoz state the melody in
unison on "Hungarian Peasant Songs No. 1,2 and 8." Blumenkranz
demonstrates finesse in his bass solo highlighted by the use of space, and
double stops. Cohen makes effective use of large intervals, sensitive
dynamics, and trills (to which Maoz resonates) during his solo.
Because of the absence of piano, we get a
healthy helping of both guitarist Maoz and trumpeter Cohen. On Satie's
"Sports and Leisure" it is difficult not to hear in his creations, the
influence of , among other trumpeters, Miles Davis, especially.
The music of LJQ is definitely
experimental. "On the Lantern" is a slow piece - ballad-like but
in a darker sense. Satie's "Gnossienne No.1" has a gypsy flavor
to it. It reminded me of the comedic restaurant scene in the movie
"Barefoot In The Park."
Listen to this music with an open mind.
It is not smooth jazz, and you won't find this as music to relax your nerves
after your rush hour coming home from work. You'll need to concentrate
when you listen. On the other hand, maybe play it as background at your
next party or social gathering and expect the music to inspire the
"In this crowded but small area of the
music world that we call jazz - where improvisation is the essence. Lemon
Juice Quartet mirrors somewhat the music of Satie. Satie was relatively
unknown and underrated until the 1960s. His popularity has grown ever
since. Maybe that's what's in store for the Lemon Juice
- JazzImprov - Winthrop Bedford 9/02
There are currently a number of performers who
attempt to bring classical works into a jazz idiom merely by flattening some of
the harmonies and occasionally tweaking the melodic line. Such performers
generally evoke fond memories of their source works and nothing
Rarer are performers who treat classical works as jazz
artists have traditionally treated popular songs: as a jumping-off point for
harmonic and rhythmic explorations of their own. The Lemon Juice Quartet
takes the latter approach on its new CD, Peasant Songs, and shows that jazz is
truly a music that can break down and recast any other in its own exciting form.
Admittedly, it's harder to break down classical works
than most songs, what with their knotty harmonies and deceptive rhythms.
However, the Lemon Juicers - Eyal Maoz, guitar; Avishai E. Cohen, trumpet;
Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, bass; and Kevin Zubek, drums - approach their
selections with respect but without over-reverence. They find the groove
in a generous helping of Bela Bartok's "Hungarian Peasant Songs,"
while their acerbic sound recasts the melodies in a contemporary mood and their
solo riffs show a deep understanding of the music's possibilities.
More surprising are the quartet's takes on Erik Satie.
They tug out the insistent rhythms from under the original melodic filigree in
"Dried Embryos" (yes, that's the name) and make this thoroughly
cosmopolitan French work into a peasant song itself, while the famously languid
"Gnossienne No.1" swings hard, from the bottom up. Although
these performances shed new light on Bartok and Satie, perhaps the highest
compliment to pay Peasant Songs is that it's a fine jazz album
- JazzTimes - Andrew Lindemann Malone 9/02
When the Israeli Lemon Juice Quartet lays hands
on Bartok's earthy Hungarian "folk" tunes - especially #12 and #6 -
they klezmerize them in a happy-go-lucky way that adds zesty energy and
complements their spiky edginess. They treat the melodies of French
miniaturist Erik Satie more as folksy marches and dances ("Trumpets Of the
Rosicrucian Order"). Guitar, trumpet, bass and drums disperse and
reassemble in lean, loose grooves that squeeze out carefree humor and rollicking
joie de vivre. At its best, the quartet crosses easily between the sassy
dance beat of a Middle Eastern wedding combo (with rattling frame-drum rimshots,
tambourine shakes and bouzouki-like guitar). At its loosest on the
inchoate balladry of "Hungarian Peasant Song #3," strands come
unraveled. Some of Satie's subtleties get muddled, with "On A
Lantern" gone raggedy and rough-edged, and "free" attempts on
"Dried Embryos" turning Satie's elegant joke into
- Downbeat - Fred Bouchard 10/02
Here is an interesting concept. The music of Erik
Satie and Bela Bartok performed by an acoustic quartet of a guitarist and
trumpeter from Israel, a bassist from Brooklyn and a drummer from Canada.
World music anyone?
The opening cut, “Bear Dance (10 Easy Pieces No.
10),” has an almost Klezmer feel; rest assured this is not cliché music. On
Satie’s “Trumpets of the Rosicrucian Order,” guitarist Eval Maoz
introduces the piece, melds with trumpeter Avishai E. Cohen, and resolves with
an inventive solo under which drummer Kevin Zubek and bassist Shanir Ezrea
Blumenkranz, both veterans of work with John Zorn, prop a brilliant
underpinning. The three sections of Bartok’s Hungarian Peasant Songs are
performed with a precise sort of cacophony. This is not to infer that the
sections are the musical equivalent of anarchy. This is well developed and
executed. The playing is exceptional in all instances. Cohen’s trumpeting on
the final section of the Peasant Songs is gorgeous. He has worked with the likes
of Ira Sullivan, Dave Liebman and Clark Terry over the years. He’s clever and
technically able to stretch without losing the soulfulness of the instrument.
Bassist Blumenkranz sets up Satie’s “On A Latern,”
a piece that takes introspective giant steps. On the bouncy “Dried Embryos,”
Satie is given a sort of brass band on helium interpretation, and somehow the
quartet makes the reprise section of “Hungarian Peasant Song No. 6” sound
like a cross between Chuck Berry and Donald Byrd.
This is not your father's jazz record. It's
not even your uncle's or your niece's jazz recording. This is an
experimental jazz view of music from another era performed by a wholly fearless
quartet of excellent musicians. This is challenging and adventurous music
that defies easy categorization. It requires open ears and a penchant for
peering into, if not the future, then at least a side road.
"Music beyond category" is a term that gets tossed around a lot.
Some artists really are difficult to categorize, but in most cases, that term is
an exaggeration. Piadrum Records uses that term to describe Peasant
Songs, which finds New York's Lemon
Juice Quartet putting an intriguing spin on the classical pieces of Béla
Bartók and Erik
Satie. It is inaccurate to claim that this excellent CD is "music
beyond category" because it can, in fact, be categorized. Recorded in 2001,
Songs is avant-garde jazz-rock that incorporates elements of
Jewish and East European music — and that certainly isn't anything to be
ashamed of. Favoring an inside/outside approach, the Lemon
Juice Quartet -Eyal
Maoz on guitar, Avishai
E. Cohen (not to be confused with the bassist for Chick
on trumpet, Kevin
Zubek on drums, and Shanir
Ezra Blumenkranz on upright bass—embraces Bartók
on their own terms. And those terms are hardly the terms of classical purists. The
Lemon Juice Quartet bring a true jazz mentality to the table, which means
compositions become vehicles for free-spirited improvisation and are given
serious makeovers. Peasant
Songs isn't for those who expect to hear note-for-note
performances of Bartók
work; this excellent, risk-taking CD is about interpretation. Just as Charlie
Parker interpreted the Cole
Porter songbook on his own terms — and just as Bay Area singer Ann
Dyer brought an avant-garde jazz perspective to the
— the members of the
Lemon Juice Quartet do to Bartók
what jazz improvisers are supposed to do: they interpret. Is Peasant
Songs "music beyond category?" No, and it is an
exaggeration for Piadrum to claim that it is. Is the CD adventurous, creative,
and highly rewarding? Absolutely.
The Lemon Juice Quartet has serious Eclecticity. The term which
is not found in most dictionaries is used to describe music that uniquely and
successfully displays profound elements of eclecticism and electricity. Their
new cd entitled Peasant Songs continues to show that the borders of jazz
are global and that it’s roots will continue to thrive in the hands of
musicians with vision.
LJQ is a New York based jazz quartet founded in 1993 with member roots
in Israel. Original members Eyal Maoz on guitar and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on
bass, have seen a few band member changes, but now have a musical core with the
addition of Avishai Cohen on trumpet and drummer Kevin Zubek, whom they met at
the Berkley College of Music.
The group creates music with a unique fusion of jazz and traditional homeland
music, that is both dynamic in its creativity and sound. Hot in the downtown New
York jazz scene, they are regulars at the popular Knitting Factory and other
area music venues. The quartet has performed at numerous "Radical Jewish
Culture" events, including Jewsapalooza, and also at the “ Red Sea
International Jazz Festival” in Israel. With a open mentality to musical
diversity, they have a global view and contemporary ear for many facets of
today’s music. Their new release, Peasant Songs embodies the very
essence of their diverseness.
Peasant Songs features music by French composer Erik Satie and
Hungarian composer Bela Bartok. The music is reconstructed into a melting pot of
other influences such as free jazz, avant-garde, experimental, funk, Jewish folk
music, and many other ingredients. The culmination of these many flavors creates
a most interesting musical gumbo. With quirky arrangements and odd tempos and
rhythms, the music is never sedate. The lead instruments of trumpeter Avishai
Cohen and guitarist Eyal Maoz provide fluid and fiery solos, but it’s the
precision rhythm machinations of bassist Shanir Blumenkranz and drummer Kevin
Zubek that hold it all together. A few of the many highlights include the
ultra-hip “Sports and Leisure” which should be a candidate for one of the
‘Funkiest Cuts of the Year” and the solemn composition “On a Lantern”,
with its outstanding trumpet work by Cohen and some really weird and wonderful
guitar sounds by Maoz. Highly recommended.
"A pretty substantial percentage of the jazz scene
is currently trying to rock out or catch a groove, but what makes this quartet
special is that it actually does
- Time Out New York 5/02
"Oh man to make Satie Funkin' accessible and turn
Bartok into the coolest of jazz. Both composers should be delighted
with this homage. Thank you LJQ for respecting the ideals and having more
fun than you should be allowed. You've improved my day . . . "
- KAFM Radio 88.1 FM - Jerry Tiemann 5/02