Koby Israelite ‘Blues from Elsewhere’ (Asphalt Tango) 3/5

Koby Israelite is a wildly eclectic multi-instrumentalist and just the kind of musician you might expect to find on John Zorn’s Asphalt Tango label. Born in Israel, but now resident in the south of London, Israelite’s musical interests span the whole spectrum and takes on board Balkan folk, bluegrass, the blues and Hendrix. On previous recordings for the Zorn’s Tzadik label, his music emphasized his Jewish heritage, but on this new release the approach is a good deal more diverse and with mixed results. On the positive side there are some fascinating fusions of styles such as the combination of old-time and Irish folk on ‘Suite Part Four: Cray Fish Hora’ which even incorporates Balkan and bluegrass into the mix. On the ultra rapid tempo ‘Bulgarian Boogie’ there is a definite influence of klezmer and this latter component is present the clarinet accompaniment on the intriguingly titled ‘Why don’t you take my brain and sell it to the night?’ Singer Annique supplies lead vocals here with elements of bluegrass harmonies and Balkan swing all coming into play. Where Kobi Israelite comes nearest to some degree of conventional playing is on the instrumental blues-rock of ‘Blues from elsewhere! Suite Pt. 1’ and parts two and three weave in some Ry Cooder guitar licks and austere, stripped down piano. Koby Israelite is definitely an artist to watch out for and indeed he surfaces on another project on the label with a remix of his take on ‘Balkan Reggae’. This is something of a work in progress project for the musician who constantly juggles a plethora of musical styles into a spicy pot. If the complimentary ingredients are not always there in equal measure, he is certainly not far off from achieving his goal. Tim Stenhouse

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