With four releases on legendary John Zorn's alt-Jewish label Tzadik, the words that trip easily off the tongue about Koby Israelite are 'maverick', 'genius', 'prolific', 'avant-garde', 'impossible to categorise'.
And yet this Israeli-born South Londoner - whose musical journey took him from classical piano to Jazz then speed metal drumming, and, on being reluctantly dragged to concerts by Romanian Gypsies Taraf de Haidouks, to a Road-to-Damascus
experience of the accordion as an instrument of desire - is at heart a man after a good tune. And it doesn't matter whether that tune is inspired by Black Sabbath, Beethoven, Bluegrass or Bucharest Gypsies.
More often than not the tune will be hauntingly beautiful, expressed on plaintive Armenian duduk and wistful accordion, or sorrow-tinged, connecting Koby's love of Balkan music and the Blues.
Essentially simple melodies are subtly complex, using Balkan rhythms and ornamentation, multi-layering and prodigious musicianship, but he never mistakes technique as a substitute for emotion, a musical truth learned from idols like Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.
Frequent moments of playfulness are more Sad Clown and self-depreciating Larry David than music hall, speaking to the close-to-absurd human condition, yet with a smile.
The inclusion of vocals by the mellifluous Mor Karbasi, and edgy Annique points to this search for a good tune. The instrumentals are often just as much 'songs' as the vocal tracks, of song length with a clear lead and structure.
The sabra is the prickly pear emblem that native-born Israelis use to describe themselves - notoriously prickly on the outside but tastily sweet inside. Koby's music is like this. Enter past the angular collision of styles and influences
- it's not an album that tries to please all of the people all of the time - and you find yourself in a world that coheres around a unique musical vision that is daringly powerful, and strangely sweet. (read more)
Koby Israelite - Accordion, Drums, Percussion, Guitars, Electric Bass, Banjo, Mandolin, Bouzouki, Clarinet, Soprano & Sopranino sax, Piano, Keyboards, Flute, Vocals
Yaron Stavi - Electric and Acoustic Bass except title 7, 10, 16
Annique - Vocals on title 2 & 7
Mor Karbasi -Vocals on title 12
Tigran Aleksanyan - Duduk, Clarinet on title 12 & 16
Ofir Gal -Electric Guitar on title 12
John Telfer - Tenor Sax on title 15
Bamba - Vocals on title 15
1.Johnny has no cash no more 1:48 / 2.Why don't you take my brain and sell it to the night? (feat. Annique) 2:16 / 3.Blues from elsewhere (suite part 1) 3:50 / 4.Accordion is the new guitar (suite part 2) 2:42 / 5.The dreams thief (suite part 3) 3:35 / 6.Crayfish Hora (suite part 4) 3:02
7.Subterranean Homesick Blues (feat.Annique) 3:07 / 8.East of Nashville 3:08 / 9.Bulgarian Boogie 4:10 / 10.Rural Ghost 2:18 / 11.My way the right way 4:08 / 12.Lemi Evke (feat. Mor Karbasi) 4:51 / 13.Peckham Rai 3:20 / 14.Two Colonels 4:16 / 15.Just Cliches 2:39 / 16.Kashmir (Bonus track) 5:22
Total playing time 54:34
All compositions & arrangements by Koby Israelite, except title 7, composed by Bob Dylan, title 12 composed by Mor Karbasi and Koby Israelite, title 16 composed by John Bonham, James Patrick Page, Robert Plant, title 2 lyrics by Annique