Marbin’s music is like stepping into a dream, and staying there. Hard to accurately pin down, but gloriously rich in all kinds of influences, from touches of old world synagogal, Pat Metheny, and film noir.
The Chicago-based duo of musicians — guitarist Dani Rabin and saxophonist Danny Markovitch — have put together a surprisingly short but eternally engaging mix of ambient-jazz music in its debut CD, released in 2009.
The style is jazz, the mood is ambience, the means is a whole other animal. Yes, the music is soothing, enough to put someone in a happy, laidback trance, or ambient enough to serve with dinner. But Marbin is by no means another Kenny G meets John Tesh with their numbingly bland Muzak instrumentals.
There’s always something going on in any one of Marbin’s 10 tracks to add texture, color and some visceral reaction. Usually, ambient music of any kind brings up images of listeners zoning out while engaging in activities that people engage in, like cocktail chatter, or washing the dishes, or even making love for the third time on a beach house deck. None of that involves actively paying much attention to chord changes and melodic structures.
Marbin changes all that in an instant. In an instant, you’re captivated, carried away and completely engrossed in a dreamy, mood-filled adventure close to shore or far off in some exotic locale (to wit: “Crystal Bells” is totally Casablanca). You’ve been seduced into a certain mood, yet the mood is definitely attached to a story and a world of your own making, encouraged by the various instruments at play.
Marbin also mixes up its inventive, label-defying music by using pleasant-sounding, catchy melodies, repeating them, then changing up chords or increasing the pace. Jazz at its finest.
The ninth track, “Rust,” does this brilliantly. The electric guitar sounds like rust taking over a saw as perhaps a lumberjack is trying desperately to cut down a Christmas tree for his family, with the thwangs and vibrato simulation of metal on metal. Then, comes the guitar shredding, harkening heavy metal and Van Halen, only to impossibly lilt away with the lighter, heavenly touch of horns matched against a percussive drumbeat in the background. There’s a lot more going on in this song than just playing around and experimenting.
My favorite is the 10th track, “Sleep Now.” It begins with a romantic bend, as the guitar strings are acoustically plucked in as gentle and sensual a manner as possible. Conjuring up relaxation and lust at the same time, this one-minute-and-41-second-lullaby is easy to love at first sight and definitely a keeper on my iTunes iPod.
That’s another weird aspect of Marbin’s music. It’s short. Most jazz music, even ambient-jazz, tends to play for way over seven, 10 minutes, minimum, including all the solos. The longest song in the CD is the eclectic, haunting and lovely “Mei,” with Mat Davidson providing vocal instrumentation and Markovitch a killer sax reveille. “Mei” would totally fit in as a prelude to a Stanley Kubrick thriller.
If you catch one of their gigs, hang around afterwards and ask them a question for me: What’s up with the odd song titles, like Abadaba, Yodo, Biwako, and Kasai?