Coming to America, the members of the Lemon Juice Quartet didn’t so much assimilate into the pre-existing jazz scene they found when they began studying at Berklee School of Music in 1993 as insert the music they had been playing in Israel into that scene. Remaining true to the original bases for their group a deconstructionist, groove-oriented, madcap, unfettered, anything-can-happen blend of the world’s musical influences upon them the quartet continues to compose and to perform, now as part of the New York Downtown scene along with notables like John Zorn and Steven Bernstein. With the release of Republic,
the quartet continues to surprise its listeners with references as broadly assimilated as late-stage Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, odd-metered country-western turned on its head, television themes like Twilight Zone,
backbeat-driven funk, Carl Stalling, New Orleans street rhythms, Captain Beefheart, jazz harmonies and centuries-old folkloric celebratory music. And yet....
.... None of the Lemon Juice Quartet’s compositions is entirely of one genre. Or of one meter. Or even of one theme. The Quartet rushes, glides, pounces, slinks, haunts, surprises, rejoices, blasts, winks, entertains, juxtaposes, bewilders, understates and just goes its own way, making music as original and unpredictable as they did when they first formed the group. On the one hand, there’s "Nos," introduced with cowbells and Shanir Ezra Blumenfranz’s pronounced bass line to form the basis for the tune, as Eyal Maoz on guitar and Avishai Cohen on trumpet (not to be confused with bassist Avishai Cohen, as I’m sure Avishai and Avishai tire of hearing) state the theme in unison and then jam, a combination of Latin references and Eastern European rhythms. Or "Em" consists of a loping rhythm reminiscent of some of the jazz jam work of a few years ago, led by John Scofield, as the modified street march beat animates the ensuing groove by Cohen accented by Maoz’s offsetting work on guitar. "Qua" is driven by Kevin Zubek’s strong backbeat, leading the listener to expect a throbbing headbanger. But it was not to be so. After a repeat of the first chorus, and then after a police whistle’s call to action, the Group abandons the rock introduction as they accelerate the tempo by multiple degrees and not just a doubling of tempo. Instantly, the Lemon Juice Quartet, as if they were trapped in the madcap world of Toontown, suggest the maniacal rather than the logical.
With the release of Republic,
the Lemon Juice Quartet has taken the liberties to have fun with their music, taking influence from whatever cultural or artistic inspiration comes their way. Republic,
like some of Don Byron’s or John Zorn’s music, is challenging and a joy to hear.