Artie Fishel And The Promised Band
Gilad Atzmon's third satirical novel, err... his 2006 offering titled Gilad Atzmon Presents Artie Fishel And The Promised Band, came as something of a rude shock to most reviewers, and probably even a large proportion of Atzmon fans. True, not exactly what you would expect in the way of jazz from an established jazz legend such as Atzmon. However, with a genius such as Atzmon, you should always expect the totally unexpected.
The merely good do the best they can. True genius does what it must. Thus it is with Gilad Atzmon, of course. He constantly re-invents himself. And this time he happens to have re-invented himself in the form of an alter ego, Artie Fishel, an almost diametric opposite of himself. Through this alter ego, Atzmon manages to cover a huge variety of musical genres and types or kinds, from jazz and funk to classical, rock to hip hop, klezmer to Chinese classical, and tons more.
More than that, Artie Fishel And The Promised Band is based on a very American Jewish tradition, that of comedy klezmer, which peaked in the 1950s with the great Mickey Katz. (The latter may ring a bell with some jazz aficionados through Don Byron's tribute album, Don Byron Plays The Music of Mickey Katz.) Even if this album were just comedy klezmer pure and simple, Atzmon would certainly give Katz one heck of a run for his money. However, Atzmon goes far beyond this and uses the form of comedy klezmer as a basic kind of vehicle for his biting satire. Too often, reviewers tend to overlook the fact that Gilad Atzmon is a master par excellence of urine extraction, and Artie Fishel And The Promised Band is exactly that - urine extraction on a grand scale. Mostly gentle, often subtle even, but as usual, in the end Atzmon's outstanding wit and humour take no prisoners. It is sad that Atzmon's wit and humour get overlooked or at least underestimated so often. Don't fall into this trap. Atzmon is the greatest wit in a very long time. With this in mind, have another listen to Artie Fishel And The Promised Band. If you still don't get it, oy vey, there is little hope....
Oh, and there is still plenty of 'jazz' for the 'purists', too. The musical genius of some of the arrangements is mindboggling. The 'classical Chinese' Theme from Dvorak's From The New World takes the breath away with its ingenuity and effect. Or take JFM, where Gilad Atzmon is at his bluesiest and also sounds like Grover Washington Jr.! This album is brim-full of musical gems and surprises.
My review copy of Artie Fishel And The Promised Band also included a special promo copy of alternative tracks/takes/fragments, that in itself - in spite of the relatively short 20-odd minutes - would have made for quite an album. The extended 'interview' segments with Artie Fishel and the dialogue with George W. are superb! Dare one hope for another outing for Artie Fishel And The Promised Band?
For Artie Fishel's Promised Band Gilad Atzmon recruited his regulars Asaf Sirkis on traps and Yaron Stavi on basses, as well as New York-based guitarist Eyal Maoz, John Turville on piano, Koby Israelite on accordion and vocals, and vocalist
Guillermo Rozenthuler and violinist
Ovidiu Fratila, both familiar from the previous Musik album. Also guesting is 'DJ Big Bobby Johnson' aka Tom Clark Hill. The performances are flawless all round, needless to say. It's particularly pleasing to hear a bit more of Atzmon's masterful clarinet. The alto is his prime axe, as indeed it was that of Bird (Charlie Parker) and, originally, Trane (John Coltrane), in both of whose footsteps Atzmon has so capably followed, but his clarinet is equally outstanding and too often overlooked.
Unless you are severely humour-impaired generally and in music specifically, Artie Fishel And The Promised Band cannot fail to win you over. Gilad Atzmon And The Orient House Ensemble this is not, and if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere. This is Gilad Atzmon's wickedly comical, satirical alter ego Artie Fishel. Take it at that, and enjoy some outrageously funny satire as well as some great music.
Genius does what it must, as we established earlier. With Artie Fishel And The Promised Band, Gilad Atzmon has done exactly that. He isn't trying to be clever or funny (he just is that, and all), he didn't just have a great 'idea' to do something different for the hell of it, he just did what he had to do. For me, Artie Fishel never came as a 'big shock', nor even a little one. As a surprise perhaps, yes, but no more than any other of Atzmon's albums, and certainly not for reasons of what it is. We should be accustomed to being surprised by Gilad Atzmon. Such is the nature of genius. If this is a 'duff' album, as some have described it, then it's one hell of a duff album that lesser mortals could only aspire to.
Artie Fishel And The Promised Band should be essential in any good jazz collection, after all, it presents a whole new 'genre' if you like, that of comedy jazz. Likewise, it is essential in any contemporary Jewish music collection, and especially so if comedy klezmer is your kind of thing. Above all, it belongs into any good music collection, period.
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