It’s always hard to start these sorts of things out. Like, should I say Zaub is a band? An ensemble? A collective? I also want to avoid words like fusion and eclectic. Those are old terms that don’t really mean anything, as far as I can tell. All musicians combine past with present to find new ways to express their voice. It’s all music, period.
So, that said, I’m going to avoid trying to classify Zaub too finely. They bring a lot to the table. I’m also going to call them jazz rock, even though that kind of puts a sour taste in my mouth. Most concrete labels do. But the jazz here is so strong, and so is the rock, so that’s about as good as it’s going to get.
They have a very strong Middle Eastern flavor, brought of course to the forefront by frontman Toofun Golchin’s impressive compositions and masterful playing. His lead guitar is often answered by Yunus Iyriboz, both of whom come from a strong background of playing bluesy stuff in international modes and rhythms. Max Whipple plays a bass with a ton of strings, and Colin Kupka brings extremely strong jazz and solo chops into the mix. Finally, the infallible duo Dan Ogrodnik and Amir Oosman, who also play together in Rhein Percussion, round out the cast of Zaub’s third album, Excuse Mui.
The record begins with the sonic equivalent of grabbing someone by the collar and making them sit down next to a pair of speakers. Listen up, people, seriously! It’s a great attention-grabber, and really sets the tone for the rest of the 4-track album. You’re going to get some soft moments, but a lot of Excuse Mui really rocks. Most of the time you’ll be listening to various incarnations of Toofun’s secretly catchy themes and melodies. He’s really found common ground in both jazz and Middle Eastern styles by acknowledging the repetition of themes in rotating timbres used by both traditions. That, I think, is my favorite part of this record. Thanks in large part to smart playing by Dan, Amir, and Max in the rhythm section, the transitions between each tune’s sections/movements happen so smoothly, I guarantee you’ll be surprised at least once to find you’re in some new, soothing little musical realm with no earthly idea how you got there. This is music, after all, so who needs earthly ideas anyway? This music soars.
It’s a wonderfully consistent album in terms of quality, but you’ll hear that soaring quality particularly in solos. Collisions features a great guitar solo, and Levitation opens with really lovely world percussion from Dan, plus it has an epic return to the A section that’s maybe one of my favorite moments of the album. You can hear this is in the video linked below.
Ode to Ornette in particular has a great vibe to it, and while I wouldn’t really call it “free” jazz, it’s definitely reasonably liberated. This tune actually sounds a lot more like bebop to me, thanks in large part to Colin’s superb solo. This is one of those songs that always makes me wonder what the hell happened to epic sax solos in rock songs. A really well-done subtle outro takes us to the final track, which finishes up the album.
In the interest of musical combinatorics, Zaub successfully merges virtuosity with the rule of cool. Deceptively earworm-ish melodies and internationally inspired rhythm structures make Excuse Mui a fresh, satisfying sound. It’s well worth a listen. You can find more about Zaub in the links listed below:
Official Website: zaubnasty.com/#!audio/c1577