Daniel Carter | Shanir Ezra Blumenkrantz | Kevin Zubek | Chinatown | Not Two Records

Daniel Carter – tenor & alto saxophones, trumpet, flute, clarinet | Shanir Ezra Blumenkrantz – bass, oud | Kevin Zubek – drums, percussion

Produced by Chinatown. Composed by Chinatown (Daniel Carter, Kevin Zubek, Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz). Recorded and mixed by Martin Bisi, BC Studios, Brooklyn, NY, August 25 – 26, 2003. Photos by Kevin Zubek and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz. Cover design by Witold Stelmachniewicz.

Tracklist: 1. Hak Zhou [11:59] 2. Tai Hong Lau [05:20] 3. Sun Dou [04:16] 4. Zhong Guo [02:00] 5. Xiao Zhi An [05:19] 6. Shun Da [03:07] 7. Jing Jing Lok [03:22] 8. Sun Mei [05:19] 9. Xian Shi [05:02] 10. Teng Fei [05:18] 11. Guo Zhi Han [07:54]

This recording by Chinatown

an unusual trio made up of downtown’s wildly diverse music scene, finds the venerable free player Daniel Carter still doing his thing, this time with a young, unique rhythm section. Bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz’s playing is muscular and gutteral, and his bowing is turgidly pleasing. On this outing he also shows off his prowess on the oud. Drummer Kevin Zubek, mostly self-taught, has an unconventional drumming style—spacious and asymmetrical, largely eschewing standard jazz or even free jazz rhythms. He sits oddly high at the kit and attacks with what seems an impossibly awkward comportment to some, but produces percussive music that transcends technique. This trio toured Poland last year, where they developed a strong rapport from the sound of it, and landed a recording deal with the Polish label Not Two.

The record opens with Carter blowing luscious Coltranesque lines on tenor, but as this twelve-minute piece progresses we hear him push outward, finding new and exotic phrasings. The remaining tracks, comparatively brief, cover a range of mood and color as Carter later switches to trumpet, flute and clarinet. Blumenkranz and Zubek back him up with just the right mix of background and foreground playing. This doesn’t sound like a trio that has been together for decades. It sounds more or less like what it is: a new trio that has made a very fine beginning in a short time.

Carter has as much dexterity and as lovely a tone on tenor as can be found among living reed players, plus a strong and distinctive personal style. It’s long been my contention that, should he ever decide to pursue a career in standard jazz, he’d almost instantly be one of the busiest players in the field. While projects like Chinatown won’t likely result in stints at Birdland, that’s just as he seems to like it. Chinatown is both another vehicle for an important fixture of New York free music and a fine showcase for two talented younger players. — All About Jazz


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4 thoughts on “Daniel Carter | Shanir Ezra Blumenkrantz | Kevin Zubek | Chinatown | Not Two Records

  1. Talking of acts from New York, Chinatown features one of the stalwarts of the scene, reedman Daniel Carter, in a trio with Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (bass, oud) and Kevin Zubek (percussion) recorded in Brooklyn in August 2003. The opening four minutes of “Hok Zhou” find Blumenkranz and Zubek providing a spacious, rolling clatter for Carter to stretch out on top of, until the texture thins out halfway through the track. Zubek’s delicate wood blocks and tambourines prompt some daring arco work from Blumenkranz, and once more Carter, without having to spar with other horns, as is the case in Test and Other Dimensions In Music, is able to develop his ideas at length. His serpentine motivic explorations recall vintage Sam Rivers, but there’s a refreshing fragility to the sound, especially on alto, that makes a welcome change from the testosterone of much NY free jazz. This is especially apparent on “Sun Dou”, a duet for Carter and Blumenkranz’s oud, in which the saxophonist is just as comfortable exploring the scalar nuances of Middle Eastern modality as he is blowing wild on “Teng Fei”. The oud returns on “Sun Mei”, which this time features Zubek’s polyrhythmic bustle, while Carter sketches delicate flute arabesques. Only two of the album’s eleven cuts go beyond the six-minute mark, and the short form – short not being synonymous with straightforward: the music is able to change tracks with surprising speed – suits the musicians well. Chinatown is one of the freshest and most creative outings of recent times, and you could do yourself a favour and check it out.

  2. Native Chinese have no need of Chinatowns; they’re only necessary for Chinese in foreign lands. So any band naming its CD after that unique urban area must come to terms with exile, rapprochement and social mobility.

    By the same token each of the musicians featured here brings his background to bear on the 11 tracks on this session. Although all three are American, the strands of sound that they intermingle are removed enough for homogenized popular music that the endproduct needs a separate forum, like the unaffected area around New York’s Chinatown, in which to flourish.

    The band’s two younger members, string player Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz and percussionist Kevin Zubek bring Hebraic, Middle Eastern and world-rock sensibilities to the mix, having performed with such Jewish-inflected experimental units as The Lemon Juice Quartet and the trio Satlah. Blumenkranz, who plays bass and oud here, has, in the past, backed up such experimental reedists as Sabir Mateen, Anthony Braxton and Sonny Simmons, so finding common ground with the group’s veteran soloist is no stretch. One of Free Jazz’s most accomplished players, multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter has spent nearly 30 years trading ideas with the cream of outside players from all over, including trumpeter Roy Campbell, bassists Peter Kowald and William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake.

    Using all the colors available from Zubek’s drums and percussion and Blumenkranz’s stringed instruments, the two mesh easily with lead lines ejaculating from Carter’s alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet, flute and clarinet. Together they make a powerful statement and if they aren’t yet as together as some of Carter’s other groups such as Other Dimensions In Music, it isn’t for lack of trying new things. As a matter of fact, the CD’s only real weakness is its number of tracks. Fewer, longer numbers may have been a better strategy.

    At almost eight minutes, for instance, “Guo Zhi Han” gives the three enough space in which to show off how Zubek’s pumped up cymbal evocations meld with Blumenkranz’s thumping pizzicato line and Carter’s chesty tenor saxophone tones. It also provides a showcase for the bassist to sound out some wiggling arco slurs, as Blumenkranz strums and finger picks his bull fiddle as if it was a large guitar. Earlier, his ponticello vibrations almost move his output into violin territory and cause Carter to mirror that sound with his split tone screeches.

    On the 12-minute-and-change first track, “Hak Zhou”, Carter’s shows off not only his swaying, triple tonguing Trane-like alto work, but also his clarinet tones which, squeak, sneak and circle around the theme before introducing reed kisses. The percussionist contributes sounds that could come from a bata drum and unselected cymbals, while the bassist applies enough torque to his strings to multi stop before moving into legato plucks to hold everything together.

    Legit ethnic sounds make their appearance on “Sun Dou” and “Sun Mei”, as Blumenkranz, who studied music in Israel as well as the U.S. displays his oud prowess. Plucking away on the five pairs of strings with a guitarist’s facility, on the first, he builds to a crescendo of smeared fingering, which is soon matched by a breathy, tender tone from the tenor sax. When Carter begins double tonguing a snaking timbre that resembles an ancient Middle Eastern flute, Blumenkranz picks away emphasizing — no surprise — the drone from the oud’s lowest and thickest string known as the bamteli.

    Somehow Carter adapts the texture of a cross-blown Arabic flute to the second piece, with the oudist pecking a definitely non-Western melody. Zubek’s isolated cymbal thwacks and wooden nerve beats add to the atmosphere and help amplify Blumenkranz’s string snaps and slurred fingering.

    As for the other tunes, they certainly allow the three to exhibits all sorts of Free Music extended techniques. These include bluesy, clarion-calls, multiphonic lines, muted Milesean trumpet licks, speaking-in-tongues screeches and simultaneously blowing and mumbling through his mouthpiece from Carter. Then there’s Zubek lashing his cymbals, bouncing and rebounding his snares and toms, exercises his claves and ringing his cowbell as if he was a ranch cook. Meanwhile, Blumenkranz displays expansive, dense bowed licks, screeching supple tremolo ponticello lines and even a tincture of Classic Jazz slap bass.

    On the evidence here, the trio members have made CHINATOWN a place you’d like to visit.

  3. Featuring Daniel on tenor & soprano saxes, trumpet, flute & clarinet; Shanir on bass & oud and Kevin on drums & percussion. This hour-long set is wonderfully inspired and free-flowing throughout. We look forward to hearing this great trio at the Sunday Night Free-Style Series at CB’s Lounge in the not-to-distant future.

  4. Chinatown es el nombre del trío del soplador norteamericano Daniel Carter (saxos alto y tenor, trompeta, flauta y clarinete), conocido por los aficionados al free jazz por ser integrante de las formaciones underground TEST y ODIM (Other Dimensions In Music). Los otros miembros son Shamir Ezra Blumenkranz (contrabajo, oud) y Kevin Zubek (percusión). Grabado el año pasado en Brooklyn, el álbum homónimo de este trío muestra a un Daniel Carter más melodioso e introspectivo de lo que habitualmente se oye en esas formaciones, aspectos que ya había revelado en “Luminescence”, un disco a dúo con Reuben Radding, grabado ese mismo año para el sello norteamericano Aum Fidelity.

    El hecho de que Carter se muestre menos impetuoso que de costumbre no significa que éste sea un disco menos desafiante para el oyente. Al contrario, tal vez por no ser el contexto ideal para que el saxofonista desate su estilo más incendiario –la ausencia de otro soplador debe tener que ver, ya que no hay quien lo “desasosiegue”- permite a Daniel Carter concentrarse en un mundo interior de pormenores y sutilezas sonoras que pudieran pasar desapercibidas cuando la intensidad es total.

    Por eso es un placer poder apreciar el trabajo sobre las tonalidades, los matices, inflexiones y motivos tímbricos, que se combinan con toda naturalidad con las texturas de la percusión de Kevin Zubek y las sonoridades orientales de Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, dos jóvenes músicos de Nueva York que demuestran poder acompañar al maestro con todas las de la ley.

    Aunque sea el tono tranquilo el que más está en evidencia en este álbum, los entusiastas del lado salvaje del soplo de Carter tiene su santuario en este bello ejemplar de arte del trío: en tres de los once temas del disco, Carter se despacha a gusto, elevándose hasta las altas cumbres de la intensidad sonora, magistralmente secundado por sus acompañantes, notables a la hora de seguir los cambios de velocidad que su soplo imprime a la música. Personalmente este es uno de los mejores trabajos de Daniel Carter de los que conozco.

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