Chicago-based progressive jazz-rock band Marbin is releasing their 12th album this Friday (July 2, 2021), and it’s quite unlike their others. We at Guitar Ramble were lucky enough to hear these tracks before they were released so we could share our thoughts, and here they are. Spoiler: we dig it!
I first heard of Marbin several years ago when they popped up on my Facebook feed. Perhaps some of you ran across them in the same way. Those damn algorithms are way too accurate. The fusion of styles, technical virtuosity, and unique pairing of soprano saxophone and stratocaster certainly caught my interest. I could hear influences of Charlie Parker, Frank Zappa, Middle Eastern music, progressive rock, blues… all triggering fun brain activity in this thick skull of mine. I’ve been at least loosely following the band’s progress ever since.
Marbin has been touring together since 2011 (the videos that stopped my social scrolling were from a 2015 studio performance). Since then, it seems the group has garnered quite a large and devoted fan base. Guitarist Dani Rabin is an eclectic and emotive musician. His solos are unique and full of energy. Rabin routinely streams short masterclasses and Q&As in which he’s very generous with his time and shared knowledge. If you’ve caught any of these, you may have seen him throwing down some gypsy jazz; and that leads me to Fernweh.
The German “Fernweh” translates to “far woe” or “wanderlust.” It is a desire to go to far away places. One might describe it as the opposite of “homesickness.” Marbin helps you mentally travel to those distant places with this new album devoted to the wonderful genre of gypsy jazz. Homage to Django Reinhardt is given with covers of songs like Minor Swing and Nuages. You’ll also hear “gypsified” versions of standards including All of Me, Stardust, and Georgia on My Mind.
Though this album is a big change-up from what you normally hear from the group, it stands out for traits common to their other work – the pairing of the sometimes sweet/sometimes viciously virtuosic sax and guitar combination and clever writing/arranging. Saxophonist Danny Markovitch is unstoppable. He and Dani Rabin formed the group in Israel in 2007 (if Wikipedia serves us correctly), and they make a mean melodic team. It’s not often that saxophone is heard on gypsy jazz albums – at least none that I know. Though after hearing Fernweh, I’m wondering why it’s not more common. Markovitch’s creativity is abundant throughout this album, and the timbres pair well in a gypsy jazz ensemble and alongside the other acoustic instruments.
Rabin’s playing shines through as well. A gifted guitarist, his love of the style and deep knowledge becomes quickly apparent in his emotive and dynamic solos found throughout the album. From the intense vibrato he employs in “Nuages” to the rapid-fire right hand strumming on “Swing Gitane”, he reels the listener in closer and closer never leaving them disappointed. While this may be traditional gypsy jazz repertoire, he finds numerous ways to add his own voice through his choices of harmony, arrangement, and pure chemistry with saxophonist Danny Markovitch that keep these old tunes sounding fresh. His great swing and virtuosic playing make for a fun and exciting listening experience. It left me wanting to pick up guitar and try to play along while also reminding me I need to practice more…like a lot more.
I predict both regular fans of Marbin as well as gypsy jazz purists unfamiliar with the group will enjoy this album. Just don’t buy it expecting a cacophony of jazz-rock fusion slapping you in the face with the best of intentions like their other albums. That’s not Fernweh. But it’s quite damn enjoyable to listen to and a lovely addition to their discography.
When to Get and Where to Go
Fernweh is available July 2, 2021. Digital download, compact disc, and even vinyl will be available on Bandcamp at this address: https://marbinmusic.bandcamp.com/album/fernweh