Anarchic, subversive and deeply hilarious Artie Fishel (aka Gilad Atzmon) is a brilliant but mad saxophonist who is convinced that jazz was born in the ghettos of Eastern Europe and is determined to bring it back home. Expect twisted versions of the Great American Songbook, messed up Klezmer, funky grooves and burning bop as Artie and band take you on a journey through his madcap musical world.
What do these things have in common: George Bush singing "The Wheels on the Bus", a bagel and a drummer known as 'Peter Foreskine'? Answer: they all appear on Israeli reedist Gilad Atzmon's latest release.
In Artie Fishel And The Promised Band Gilad introduces his Benny Hill-like alter ego - a fanatical Zionist (the antithesis of Gilad himself) - and takes a step closer to musical anarchy. He layers the accordion over the electric guitar over a radio show whose signal has been hi-jacked by terrorists. 'When you blend, the violence will end' says the DJ, as 70s rock, smooth jazz, and klezmer are thrown into the mix.
The political innuendo builds as a loose storyline unfolds. On 'Radical Goose' bass, drums and piano puncture Gilad's floating and pensive soprano sax lines, set against an undercurrent of sinister mutterings. "A Knight into Nietzche (A Night in Tunisia)" sees a 40s dance band version of the Gillespie classic peek through an urgent melee of complex, Eastern-sounding sax and Asaf Sirkis' exciting percussion.
Between the mock interviews, riots and hilarious bouts of communal singing, there are some real musical highlights in Artie Fishel, and the opportunities Gilad takes to solo are precious because there are so few of them. The theme from Dvorak's New World Symphony weaves plaintive Chinese strings with rock rhythms and a sensitive, uplifting clarinet solo, and features Atzmon's sparkling runs to the top of the instrument. Ovidiu Fratila's violin leads on "The Way You Look Tonight", and neither the background sounds of gargling nor the comical whispered vocal detract from the delicate beauty of Gilad's clarinet playing.
However lunatic you think Gilad Atzmon's burlesque humour and 'political art', you can't fail to be moved by the inspired arrangements and great musicianship on Artie Fishel And The Promised Band. It's just a shame that they are supporting acts, rather than the main event. --Kathryn Shackleton
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