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Krakauer’s Ancestral Groove: Checkpoint

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The checkpoint of the title is a reference to the city of Berlin, where East used to meet West. It still does in David Krakauer’s clarinet playing, which has deep klezmer roots and arresting avant-garde blossoms. As heard most dramatically in this album’s solo showcase, “Synagogue Wail,” Krakauer specializes in squeals, trills and insistent repetitions of notes, fractured lines that won’t rest until they’ve fully wormed their way into your consciousness-and do so with great success.

Elsewhere on Checkpoint, Jeremy Flower (a.k.a. Keepalive) backs Krakauer’s intensity with an array of loops: sometimes Jewish cantors in full cry, sometimes bubbly hip-hop beats, often both. Sheryl Bailey tears things up on guitar, bassist Jerome Harris keeps the bottom funky, and drummer Michael Sarin interacts brilliantly with Keepalive’s samples. Special guests include John Medeski, who contributes greasy organ to “Tribe Number Thirteen”; guitarist Marc Ribot, whose raging wah-wah solo is a highlight of “Elijah Walks In”; and accordionist Rob Curto, who punches out some lively licks on “Border Town Pinball Machine.”

The eight studio-recorded tracks here are excellent, perhaps giving us an idea of what Ivo Papasov and his Bulgarian Wedding Band might have sounded like if they’d gotten into electronica. But the final two pieces, cut live at the Stone in New York, go much further out. A second version of “Tribe Number Thirteen” misses Medeski’s keyboard stylings but makes up for it with a much harder beat. And Krakauer’s arrangement of John Zorn’s “Tandal” is a stunner, opening with clarinet shrieks and working up to a dizzying pitch-shifted solo by Bailey.

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