Hailing from Amsterdam & then scattered & relocated to Boston, the ten-piece Ghorar Deem Express are jazz-trained musical magpies. The music on their self-titled album takes in bebop, swing, reggae, east-European folk, heavy metal and classical music. They openly describe this melange as ?pastiche? on their website, but it does hold together as a composite style. Rather than the channel-surfing approach of Naked City or the Boredoms, the transitions are fairly smooth ? a sound that wears influences on its sleeves and gets a good mix (not to mention groove) going.
The line up includes alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, organ, accordion, multi-lingual vocals, and guitar, bass, percussion and drums. Rachel Koppelman?s accordion has a strong presence, conjuring European caf? ambience and adding harmonic texture. The music has a European rather than American jazz flavour, though not in the Evan Parker / Peter Br?tzmann / Slippenbach Trio sense. Ghorar Deem Express stick to a groove throughout, and the saxes often work in unison as a horn section.
I am reminded of Henry Threadgill?s use of the electric bass and accordion with Make a Move. Another reference point could be the Jamaican jazz of Ernest Ranglin and Monty Alexander.
The album hits the ground running with ?Schonel Schnerb?, which straightaway goes into Jamaican-style toasting from vocalist Nader Sobhan, before an accordion lead takes over above riffing saxophones and then the whole thing drops down into a quiet patch with echo-laden guitar. Guitar and saxophones take turns at solos as the groove climbs back
Throughout the album there?s a strong sense of composition and arrangement at work. Themes are stated, varied, and restated with different dynamics. There?s often a classical feel to it, which is made most explicit in their adaptation of Rossini?s ?William Tell Overture? ? they do it with a reggae beat and a laidback feel that?s quite different from the urgency of the standard classical reading (aka ?the Lone Ranger theme?). Jay McMahon?s baritone sax solo is aplomb with fruityness.
The last track is a rocking out version of ?Kikkoman?, a jingle for a brand of soy sauce, which goes some way to dispelling the groovy jazz atmosphere. This is then followed by ten minutes of silence, before a really
rocking out heavy metal hidden track.
In all, this album works well in striking a balance between an accessible groove (ie this rather than Jandek at a bbq) and musical sustenance, with just enough dissonance & noise to ward off twee-ness. The musos have got chops, the whole thing is warmly produced and well mastered studio sound. It?s an effective hybrid of sounds & colours & cultures. The cover artwork wouldn?t grab me, as a possible down point. I?d love to see this band play live. 9/10 -- Dave Edwards (28 June, 2006)