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Peasant Songs

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Album Review

"Music beyond category" is a term that gets tossed around a lot. Some artists really are difficult to categorize, but in most cases, that term is an exaggeration. Piadrum Records uses that term to describe Peasant Songs, which finds New York's Lemon Juice Quartet putting an intriguing spin on the classical pieces of Béla Bartók and Erik Satie. It is inaccurate to claim that this excellent CD is "music beyond category" because it can, in fact, be categorized. Recorded in 2001, Peasant Songs is avant-garde jazz-rock that incorporates elements of Jewish and East European music — and that certainly isn't anything to be ashamed of. Favoring an inside/outside approach, the Lemon Juice Quartet—Eyal Maoz on guitar, Avishai E. Cohen (not to be confused with the bassist for Chick Corea's Origin) on trumpet, Kevin Zubek on drums, and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on upright bass—embraces Bartók and Satie on their own terms. And those terms are hardly the terms of classical purists. The Lemon Juice Quartet bring a true jazz mentality to the table, which means that Bartók and Satie's compositions become vehicles for free-spirited improvisation and are given serious makeovers. Peasant Songs isn't for those who expect to hear note-for-note performances of Bartók and Satie's work; this excellent, risk-taking CD is about interpretation. Just as Charlie Parker interpreted the Cole Porter songbook on his own terms — and just as Bay Area singer Ann Dyer brought an avant-garde jazz perspective to the Beatles' Revolver — the members of the Lemon Juice Quartet do to Bartók and Satie what jazz improvisers are supposed to do: they interpret. Is Peasant Songs "music beyond category?" No, and it is an exaggeration for Piadrum to claim that it is. Is the CD adventurous, creative, and highly rewarding? Absolutely.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s

Based in the New York area, the Lemon Juice Quartet (LJQ for short) is an avant-garde jazz-rock group that incorporates elements of Jewish and East European music. The experimental foursome, whose influences range from Dave Douglas, Miles Davis, and Ornette Coleman to Medeski, Martin & Wood, has favored an inside/outside approach. Although abstract and left-of-center, the Lemon Juice Quartet is also musical and not without a strong sense of melody. LJQ is not an exercise in atonal chaos for the...
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Peasant Songs, Lemon Juice Quartet
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