Peasant Songs 


Radio Stations Airplay 

         120 + Stations "In Play" as of 7/12/02



JazzImprov Magazine

"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 stabilizing element".  

"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 unexpected.  

"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 Quartet".  

                              - JazzImprov - Winthrop Bedford 9/02

JazzTimes Magazine

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 more.  

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 indeed.  

                              - JazzTimes - Andrew Lindemann Malone 9/02

Downbeat Magazine

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 crassness.  

                             - 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. 

                             - - Mark E. Gallo 8/02


All Music Guide

"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, Peasant 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 Corea's Origin) on trumpet, Kevin Zubek on drums, and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on upright bass—embraces Bartók and Satie 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 that Bartók and Satie's 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 and Satie's 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 Beatles' Revolver — the members of the Lemon Juice Quartet do to Bartók and Satie 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.

                                -  All Music Guide  - Alex Henderson 5/02 Publishers' Picks of the Week

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.

                                  - - Mark F. Turner 6/02  


Time Out New York

"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 both."                      

                                   -  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