Buchbinder, a prolific and multi-faceted composer of film and theater scores who also leads the performance group 'Shurum Burum Jazz Circus,' and his own Toronto-based jazz quintet, is also a founding member of one of Canada's leading Klezmer ensembles, The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band. It was Buchbinder's work with Shurum Burum that brought him to the attention of Tzadik kingpin John Zorn, who helped bring Odessa / Havana to fruition. Buchbinder's chief collaborator in 'Odessa / Havana' is the Cuban-born pianist and composer Hilario Duran, whom many jazz fans know from his work with saxophonists Paquito D'Riviera and Jane Bunnett. Duran composed half of the CD's eight tunes, and collaborated with Buchbinder on the rather prosaically-titled 'Colaboración.'
The music on Odessa / Havana has a muscular, forceful sound with the leader & pianist Duran firmly in the foreground. In many ways, it is comparable to John Zorn's own Masada quartet, only with fuller instrumentation and the integration of numerous Latin influences. Like Zorn, both Duran and Buchbinder can write modern compositions that manage to stretch musical boundaries while being hooky and melodic enough to get inside of your head very quickly. Their tunes also seem to be built from the bottom up, underlain by near-monumental, trance-inducing ostinato figures that approach an ecstatic sort of intensity that one associates with ethnic or devotional music. Some of the most striking work on this CD, however, strays a bit from the fire-breathing Latin-jazz mold. 'Prayer' is a very moving mid-tempo jazz ballad in which Buchbinder, Duran, and the rest of the band use their instruments to put across a deeply-felt plea for sanity and peace in a crazy world. On the 'party-down' side of the coin, the band dishes up some very effective straight-up old school Klezmer on 'Freylekh's Tumbao'.
Buchbinder's clean, acrobatic trumpet style echoes the lead trumpet / high-note specialist sound from the big band era as much as it does the more cerebral style of top post-bop brassmen such as Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, and the pure fire of Latin-jazz giants such as Chocolate Armenteros. Duran, like Buchbinder, effortlessly fuses modern jazz, Latin, and 20th Century classical influences into a piano style that is individualistic and highly expressive. The chemistry between Duran, Buchbinder and the rest of the band is immediately palpable, and is the main reason why this recording is so successful. Multi-reed artist Quinsin Nachoff and violinist Aleksander Gajic are clearly major musical talents. Both contribute several show-stopping, jaw-dropping solos. Drummer Dafnis Prieto - a known quantity for many jazz fans - does his usual extraordinary work behind the drumkit, as does Canadian drummer Mark Kelso. It all rests on the firm bedrock provided by bassist and producer Roberto Occhipinti and percussionists Rick Shadrach Lazar and Papiosco Torres.
Odessa / Havana is a veritable feast for the mind, body, and spirit. Buchbinder, Duran, and their band weave fascinating, exotic improvisational tales over complex, polyrhythmic Latin-Judaeo-jazz rhythms as if they know what they're doing is somehow special. And it is. Bravo!