Masterful And Magnificent Mood Swings
At long last it's here - Koby Israelite's new album Mood Swings has recently been released on Tzadik. I'd been itching to get my grubby mitts on it for a long while, especially after hearing a few early "previews". Was it worth the wait? You bet! Mood Swings is more than a worthy successor to Dance Of The Idiots, it takes up where Idiots left off and presents a whole new dimension.
In addition to Koby Israelite and his usual multi-instrumental talents, Mood Swings features a truly stellar line-up of guest artists (some drawn from Israelite's fellow band members in Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers), including legendary Gilad Atzmon on clarinet and soprano and alto sax, renowned violist and occasional 'Voyager' David Lasserson on viola, extraordinary, fabulous multi-woodwind player and regular fellow 'Voyager' Stewart Curtis on piccolo, spectacular occasional 'Voyager' Tigran Aleksanyan on his fabulous Armenian duduk as well as clarinet, superlative bassist Yaron Stavi (best known as a member of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble), and trumpeter extraordinaire Sid Gauld, among others. Something of a dream line-up there!
The music on Mood Swings, featuring ten Koby Israelite originals plus one traditional and one Charlie Chaplin track, both arranged by Israelite, is as one would almost expect from Koby Israelite - not just totally genre-defying but genre-busting. The mix is sensational and totally irresistible - you could be forgiven for saying "as usual", except that it goes even further than on Dance Of The Idiots.
Take the opener, the traditional Dror Ikra. It opens with an electric guitar that would be at home on a prog rock track, then promptly changes to the song that here sounds as if it could have come from the popular Turkish tradition with heavy Ottoman art music influences, with some extremely fine, and finely judged, duduk from Tigran Aleksanyan. There is also some superb soloing from Koby Israelite's superlative accordion, bringing a more Balkan/jazz sound into this number, and from Yaron Stavi's superb bass responding to the former, with incredibly gentle interspersions from Stewart Curtis' sublime, and almost subliminal, piccolo.
Koby Israelite's Mood Swings is aptly titled, with the mood swinging around from one track to the next, and even within some of the tracks. With not a single weak track in sight, or within hearing, this is a superbly consistent album that also shows off Israelite's compositional talents to the fullest, as well as his huge skill as an arranger.
With this sort of consistency, it is difficult to single out individual tracks above others, nay, impossible. It also would be unfair. On the other hand, there would be far too much to say about every single track on this superb album. Nonetheless, a couple of finely crafted waltzes do cry out for special mention, Europa? and No Room For Anarchy, for their exceptional compositional artistry. Both are full of Koby Israelite's usual wit as well as surprising twists and turns, with strong Balkan overtones and a sublime mix of Viennese and "east Austro-Hungarian" waltz. Yet, with all their genre crossing and busting, they could just as well become standards in the ballroom! They are in fact wonderfully danceable. ("Strictly Come Dancing", are you reading this?!)
The melodies on Koby Israelite's Mood Swings are most memorable indeed throughout, with perhaps a slightly greater tendency towards the lyrical than previously. The superb playing of the individual artists hardly needs commenting upon here, except to perhaps point out that what Koby Israelite does on/with the accordion is sheer magic and his playing of this all too often so sadly under-rated instrument has matured considerably over the last couple of years; David Lasserson is probably the first violist actually to make the viola sound sexy; and of course, it is pure delight to hear a little more of Gilad Atzmon's truly masterful clarinet than perhaps usual - absolute joy.
His music very much reflects Koby Israelite's personality, full of charm, wit and humour, always imaginative and inventive, sometimes a prankster, others somewhat dark and moody. (Although I hasten to add that to the best of my knowledge Israelite is not prone to mood swings.) Mood Swings perhaps leans more heavily towards Balkan and Middle Eastern and a bit less towards heavy metal - actually, a lot less - than Dance Of The Idiots, but the mix is still at least as eclectic overall, with jazz, klezmer, Balkan, Middle Eastern/Jewish, gipsy music and Death Metal smashing together and melting into one single smooth whole. The fact that like Idiots, Mood Swings is heavily multi-tracked does not in the least detract from the feeling that this is very much "streams of consciousness" music. The attention to detail is however equally outstanding, and like Israelite's mastery of his accordion, his music has matured considerably.
Filled as it is with a passion, a zest, a thirst for life, Koby Israelite's Mood Swings is totally exhilarating and irresistible, it is music to completely lose yourself in, or to jump up and dance to, however the mood grabs you. An absolute must-have.
© 2005 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.