Abe Pollack • Unprecedented Time

Abe Pollack • Unprecedented Time cover art

This album could have fell through the cracks. On first glance at the attractive album art by Stephen Lack, it looks like many albums I receive from artists who play outside of the genre areas of The Syncopated Times. While Abe Pollack’s name did ring a bell I still wonder if that is only by association with classic age bandleader Ben Pollack. His band here is also unfamiliar, with the only name cited on the album I recognize being an acknowledgment to guitarist Greg Ruby for “guidance and inspiration.”

Hot Jazz Jubile

Then there are the titles. “Lullaby of the Leaves” and “The World is Waiting For The Sunrise” are the only standards, with the rest being Pollack originals. The accompanying notes list nothing more, not a sentence about intention or style. I assumed it would be a mainstream sound of some variety outside our reach but popped it in to hear “The World is Waiting For The Sunrise,” a favorite. It wasn’t long before I knew that a wide swath of the TST audience would appreciate this record and learning about someone new to look out for in New York City.

Abe Pollack has been mentioned only glancingly in TST, in bassist credits with Greg Ruby, and Duved Dunayevsky. He found his way into vintage jazz and swing with the Bailsmen, a New York City based Gypsy Jazz outfit with albums that did fall through the cracks. There is some of that style here, an accordion on three tracks adds to that feel but also to a pronounced klezmer influence throughout. Even Marcus Milius, through a deep and dark vocal on “Lullaby of the Leaves” contributes to that very hip cafe vibe even though that track is overall more traditional.

Pollack describes his purpose in creating this album thus; “A few years ago, I kept wondering, is there room for originality in traditional jazz, klezmer, and swing? Can vintage styles, which were once novel, sound fresh again? I began writing and recording original music, obsessing over this idea. And today I believe the answer is ‘yes.’” I applaud anyone for filling an album with originals in a market where fans crave their favorites.

UpBeat Records

Among swing bands originals are often not very, but that isn’t the case here. While this is danceable music the arrangements are enjoyably narrative and complex. There’s great layering among the instruments, particularly where the accordion joins the fray. Only one of the originals has a vocal. The titles are evocative, “The Low Bono Blues,” “There’s A There There,” “A Night In With You,” “Palling Around In The Parlor,” “A Little Too Serious,” “Gotta Go,” all great titles, and fitting to their music.

Pollack plays bass throughout and guitar and keyboard on a track each. He is joined by Brad Brose, guitar on 11 of 12 tracks, Uri Zelig, on drums throughout, Jonathan Greene variously on clarinet or alto for eight tracks, with Ryan Weisheit on tenor, alro, or flute on the other four. Albert Behar is on accordion for three and with one of two vocals, Marcus Milius having the other.

The album was home recorded but these days it is truly hard to tell the difference. I fully mistook this album for one produced on a label, and with a promotional team. It would be worthy of that. There is excellent playing throughout, made even more enjoyable by being new compositions. deserving of your deep attention. I do wish they had included a few sentences of notes describing the contents. You can order a CD or download the album on Bandcamp. It came hot off the presses in April.

Joe Bebco is the Associate Editor of The Syncopated Times and Webmaster of SyncopatedTimes.com

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