CD Review: Magnetic Ear – a pocket brass band from New Orleans led by Martin Krusche (Germany)

albumArtist: Magnetic Ear
Title: Alien of Extraordinary Ability
Label: self released
Genre: New Orleans style second line and funk, Eastern European brass band music and African music

CD Review by Dawoud Kringle

Magnetic Ear is part of the new scene of music coming from New Orleans. An ensemble led by Martin Krusche. Born in Germany, and currently living in New Orleans, Krusche is in addition to being an accomplished musician/composer/band leader, he is also respected saxophone repair man.

The Magnetic Ear CD features Krusche on tenor sax, Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax, Jeff Albert on trombone, Charlie Halloran on trombone, Jason Jurzak on sousaphone, and Paul Thibodeaux (on drums). Special guests include Sasha Masakowski (vocals), Chris Alford (guitar), Michael Skinkus (percussion), Troy Andrew (trumpet), Roger Lewis (baritone sax), Dwayne Williams (bass drum & tambourine), Mitch Caponetto (djembe), Patrick Farrell (accordion), Evan Christopher (clarinet), and Raymond Jackson (clarinet).

The music starts, on the opening track “Falu,” with a baritone sax line that functions as a counterpoint bass line. The band jumps in with a Latin groove, and Sasha Masakowski’s vocals. The lively, upbeat, dance rhythm and imaginative composition and arrangement take the listener into a pleasurable whirlwind.

“A New Day,” begins with an almost threatening horn section, driven by snare drum rolls. The song shifts rhythmic feel from syncopated to straight grooves. The horns dance around each other like tango dancers.

“Uncle Roger,” and “Turkey on the Westbank” are when the jazz elements of Magnetic Ear come into play, and leads the rest of the CD into this direction (the jazz was always there, but here, it’s fully manifest.) “Dim Dik Dakar” is a strange re-interpretation of West African music from a New Orleans jazz perspective. It is not African in the sense of being stylistically or musically identifiable with any African genre (in fact, a percussion break in the midst of the 1/4/5 progressions is more Latin than anything).

“Alotalip” has a very subtle way of inviting the listener to be at ease. Rather like walking into a parlour full of friends and feeling at home. “In Bloom” has a weird beginning with what the ear immediately interprets as a wailing electric guitar that morphs into a sinister song that draws the listener through dark places, but remains at his side. “Farewell Tango” is a sad, yet somehow stoic.

The entire CD has many wonderful moments, displays masterful composition, arranging, and playing, and deftly navigates several styles, while remaining within its own vibe. The whole New Orleans vibe is obvious: although the Dixieland style had long since evolved into something new, there is some indefinable feel in the music that could only have come from the Big Easy.

It is fitting to close with an amusing anecdote that DooBeeDooBeeDoo‘s esteemed publisher/editor, saxophonist, and leader of SoSaLa, Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi shared with me.

SoSaLa was recently performing in New Orleans. Sohrab asked Martin Krusche to repair his saxophone before the show. Martin refused any payment, and asked instead to be allowed to sit in with SoSaLa. That night, Sohrab invited Martin up for the song “Sad Sake.” After Sohrab began the song, his instrument malfunctioned. While the guitarist was soloing, Martin fixed the instrument on stage, within a matter of minutes. It was fortunate he was there, because otherwise Sohrab could not have continued the performance.