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Marbin - Strong Thing CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.33 | 8 ratings

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3 stars There are many bands out there where their main strength is in working together to create improvisations in a most seamless way, one or two instruments taking a spotlight while the other instruments work with them to create a background that usually is based around a theme, and all of the musicians trying to be engaged. These types of bands are usually best experienced in a live setting, such as "Phish", "Hawkwind" or almost any jazz/rock fusion band out there. This is the dilemma facing the band known as "Marbin", who try to approach their studio recordings by performing them like they are live. This band take their songs which have already been proven in live settings, and try to bring in the live atmosphere and the improvisational excitement and put it in a studio setting where it can be then recorded. They try to go beyond the excuse of "Well, we are a live band and we can't transfer that excitement to a studio recording".

Marbin has seen some worldwide success and has also established a cult following, and their fans attest to their strength as a cohesive band in their live shows. Marbin attempts again to bring this excitement to their 7th studio recording "Strong Thing". Dani Rabin (guitar), Danny Markovitch (sax), Jon Nadel (bass), and Everette Benton Jr (drums), is the foursome that makes up this jazz fusion band that performs songs that are all instrumental, but each song has a personality and a story. This album, released in December of 2019, consists of 10 tracks, 3 of which are divided up into 2 parts, which ends up with a total run-time of 57 minutes.

One of the pleasures you get from seeing them in a live show is that the band gets a chance to explain the story behind each of the strange and funny titles that these tracks have. A studio recording tends to take that away, and we are left only with the music, but there is also an advantage to that. It allows the spotlight to be on the music and the talent of the band. This is immediately apparent in the opening track "Messy Mark", which sounds like it would have an interesting story, but the joy and the excitement of the music is still there regardless. The music is quite heavy on the rock side of the fusion here, but the improvisation from the guitar and the sax is a lot of fun, especially from Markovitch's sax which flows, twirls and dives in and out of riffs and motifs as it plays around with the main thematic element, and this track just flies by at a tremendous speed that it's 8 minutes are almost hardly even noticeable. And, yes, you can almost picture yourself there at a concert bouncing along with the crowd and watching in awe as this band works together as if they can read each other's minds. So does their method work? For me, it does.

Another 8 minute track follows with "Spank Tank", and the lively and enthusiastic performance continues, with the guitar getting an early solo, showing off in runs and riffs with ease. With 2 long tracks starting things off, it makes one wonder if the band will wear out it's welcome with this assault of crazy and quite impressive soloing against a rock heavy background. Everyone is in the band is quite impressive with the bass and and a barrage of drums holding their own quite effectively while the lead guitar and sax do most of the improvising. They still get to show off, but is it too much all at once? Do we need a chance to breathe after all of this?

Well, that could be part of the reason for dividing the next track "Just a Little Bit" into 2 parts. Also, after the slam of the two previous and quite heavy tracks, this one takes things much more smoothly and easily along, softening things with a soothing, yet engaging sax providing the thematic and improvisational center for the track. The really great thing about this though, is, even with a smoother sound, the music still has a bit of a rough and tumble edge to it as it continues and becomes a little more intense, so you don't have to worry at all about this music sounding too "new-age" or bringing any memories of your tacky date night Kenny G music. This is full bore fusion, even when it's soft. Part 1 features the sax taking over the improvisation, while part 2 lets the bass establish the background and then bringing in the sax and guitar harmonizing with each other. Don't worry, though, the guitar gets to shimmer along by itself soon enough, and this part belongs more to the romanticism of the electric guitar. Again the mood begins soft and smooth and intensifies as it continues, resulting in more emotion from the guitar solo, and by the end of the track, you will be impressed.

"Alabama Sock Party" brings back a very lively sound with fast moving tempo and the bass flying along with the guitar churning out notes faster than your boss' secretary can type. It's crazy and wild, even when the sax takes over, and the bass line is finally more out front, and there is not a problem with all of the members keeping up with each other. This one is quite a tornado of notes and music. "Itchybun" has more of a progressive feel to it with a complex sound and changing textures, utilizing more of a dynamic feel than before. Most of the dynamic part is in the first half as it stays more chaotic in the 2nd half.

The title track comes next, and it is divided up into two parts. Like the previous track, this one has a more progressive feel. The first part is more moderate and led by the guitar while the 2nd part is quicker and based off of a rapid fire guitar riff, even though the sax gets to establish the theme that it later improvises around. "Fisticuffs" is also divided up into 2 parts. It seems to be based more around a tango style riff that the sax and guitar play around with. The beat itself is heavy and straightforward though, and the tango style really doesn't translate as well as it should as it ends up turning into another track that could have used some more dynamic and variety.

Sure enough, the excitement of a live show is quite apparent throughout the album. There are plenty of sax and guitar solos to make any fusion and improvisational jazz lover happy. What is lacking, however, is variety and dynamics. When the slower and smoother track comes along early in the album, the last half ends up suffering from a bit of overkill and not enough room to breath. No doubt that this band is talented, and in past albums, they were able to communicate their ability to work with more variety and dynamics, but on this album, there is a lack of this. Unfortunately, this brings the album down a bit as the listener might get tired of the tracks sounding too much alike, each one not having the personality to distinguish itself from the others. As each song and title has a story behind it, that translation gets lost in this studio setting, so even though the performance is exciting enough to give you a taste of their live shows, it gets lost in the band not communicating to the listener. It all ends up sounding impressive, but in the end, there isn't much that sticks in your memory when distinguishing one track from another. It ends up feeling like an average album, when in reality, it is better than average. The performances are top notch, but what it has in performance, it lacks in personality. It ends up getting 3.5 stars, but unfortunately rounds down to 3 in the end.

TCat | 3/5 |


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