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July/August 2007

Jerome Sabbagh
Pogo
Sunnyside

Sabbagh, who was born in Paris and moved to the United States at age 20 to study at Berklee, is a refreshing, cliché-free young tenor and soprano saxophonist. In this, his second album as a leader and one including only his compositions, he creates moods as well as lines and spaces.

There’s a lot of rhythmic freedom and dynamic rise and fall within the ensemble, a quartet with guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Ted Poor. Sabbagh and company avoid the obvious: Backbeats are heard throughout “Rooftops” and “Stand Up,” “Moon/Sun” echoes “Bitches Brew,” and “Hamra” features a Middle Eastern motif. The performances proceed as if through-composed.

Monder ranges from soft, Jim Hall-like harmonic insinuations in the background to fuzz-rock solo work. Martin and Poor strike up various internal grooves as well as keep watch on the form of each tune. Sabbagh is a thoughtful, generally soft-spoken player with a flair for rhythmic superimposition. You won’t hear the Blue Note hard-bop tradition on this album nor incendiary, Coltrane-type saxophonics; rather, Pogo exists somewhere in between. Maybe this music should be dubbed “the new cool.”

Originally published in July/August 2007
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