Marbin, the jazz fusion quartet from Chicago, recently completed another Florida run. We were fortunate to catch two shows at The Amsterdam in St. Petersburg. This was our first time seeing the band; owner John Cullen is a huge fan (and wonderful supporter of live music) who made sure they visited his establishment twice (Monday, February 22, and the following Friday).
Watching several YouTube videos made it clear these would be special shows. The Monday show also featured Justino & the Difference, also a great band.
Justino and company got us revved up with part of “Led Boots,” but that was just a sound check. The real set began with their arrangement of the Jurassic Park theme, which segued into “Contusion” (Stevie Wonder). Everyone was on fire, totally pumped to be supporting Marbin. Bassist Juan Santana and Jonathan JT Thomas on drums are so tight; they blew up “Somewhere.” An Alice in Chains tune morphed into Justino’s “Pop Song,” which bounces everywhere! Another great rendition of “Black Hole Sun” followed, with a deluxe false ending, and they closed with “Signals.” Justino is a great guitar player, and Jonathan Richardson is simply magic on the keyboards.
Finally, it was time to see what all the hype was about. The ‘hype,’ if anything, was drastically understated. They were superb. The very first song grabbed everyone’s attention, and it was ON! Their Facebook page describes them as “an all-instrumental jazz-rock band that plays fast and hits hard.” I’ll say!
The second tune started out with almost a Western flavor (“Juke Joint,” perhaps?), but just as quickly it veered into Eastern sounds, Middle Eastern, to be more specific. It should not be a surprise that Dani Rabin (guitar shredder extraordinaire) and Danny Markovitch (soprano and tenor saxophones) are from Israel.
It was a mind-bending set including the stunning “African Shabtay.” I missed the second set in favor of sleep in a feeble attempt to recover from a three-day festival.
The Friday event began, oddly enough, with a singer-songwriter playing acoustic guitar. I admit I was not optimistic. And, as usual, I was delighted to be wrong. Ben deLaurentis is a friend of the band. He had a great voice, and his guitar playing was excellent. Highly recommended.
Marbin announced that their first set would be the unveiling of their upcoming album after opening with a blistering hot song. The second tune was “Money (something),” with Markovitch on his curved-bell soprano sax (always a topic of conversation). He switched to tenor as they began “Whiskey Chase.” I was about to write that it was a ballad when, turning on a dime, Rabin injected rocket fuel, Markovitch switched back to soprano, and it became full-frontal surf punk!
Before the next song, Rabin asked if anybody knew Quentin Tarantino, because they felt the next song would be a perfect movie them. They were correct. “Goatman” was a tremendously dark tune. Next, Rabin explained that many of their song titles come from places they have played, relating a wild story about some character who told them they should come visit the “Buddha Complex.”
By the time they got to “Carnival,” I had full appreciation for the rhythm section, who were killing it. Bassist John Nadel was driving every song with his great playing, and Blake Jiracek was bashing up a storm on kit. It was perfect.
The last tune of the set was “Escape from Hippie Mountain.” As an obscure reference, I felt like I was hearing a companion piece to Ornette Coleman’s stunning album Of Human Feeling. It was… incredible.
We had hoped to catch the second set, but more than 30 minutes later it was clear the set break would be longer; we bailed.
Serious talk. Don’t miss them next time around. That is all.
P.S. Don’t bother telling me the math in the title is wrong; I know. But parentheses wouldn’t look good. Only YOU noticed it anyway!