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Uri Sharlin and the Dogcat Ensemble’s debut album titled Back to the Woods released on Dune Folk Records, brings an unconventional instrument to the forefront while blending conservative jazz elements. Tel Aviv native Sharlin had originally planned to make this album 15 years ago when he was set to move to New York to study jazz piano. It was in 2008 that the Uri Sharlin and the Dogcat Ensemble was formed, consisting of Sharlin playing the Siwa and Figli accordions along with the piano; Matt Darriau on bass clarinet, Gili Sharett on the bassoon, Kyle Sanna on the guitars, Jordan Scannella on bass, Rich Stein and John Hadfield on percussion with special guests Itai Kriss on the flute and auto flute, Ze Mauricio on the Pandeiro and Michael Lavalle on the Zabumba.
The album’s opening track titled “Night Swim,” begins with Sanna’s guitar play then segues into Sharlin’s masterful accordion play. The speed and preciseness with which he hits each note could make listeners think Sharlin was born to play the obscure instrument. The track has a playful tone, which could make listeners envision going for a midnight dip with this song in the background. Hadfield and Stein’s percussion can be heard in the background and Sharlin often goes quick then fades out with his accordion play, maybe musically signifying a frantic swim? Sanna also get a solo mixed in which lightens the track’s mood a tad.
“One for Frankie,” the third track on the album, opens with Darriau’s soft bass clarinet play and Hadfield’s tender percussion in the background. Then, Sharlin’s accordion enters the melody along with Sharett’s noticeable bassoon work. Sharlin’s quick play along with Sharett’s bassoon makes for somber yet catchy melody. Then, Sanna’s guitar sneaks in giving the song an unexpected rock vibe.
In the fourth track, “DIA #342,” Sharett’s bassoon takes center stage in the intro as Hadfield’s deep percussion work in the background adds to the track’s serious tone. Then, Darriau’s bass clarinet comes in along with Scannella’s bass. The repetitious melody is broken up by Sharlin’s accordion play about ¼ into the track.
“Mundau by Night,” the seventh track on the album, has an ominous beginning that could be at the start of a thriller motion picture. Sharlin plays piano against the windswept sound that pervades the background of the track. Special guest Kriss shines with his stellar flute work, as both his notes and Sharlin’s piano notes linger and then fade off adding to the shady vibe of the track. The addition of Sharett’s booming bassoon play only adds to the profound melody making its title seem very appropriate.
The ninth track on Back to the Woods titled “Baiao” features two of the other special guests on the album, Ze Mauricio on the Pandeiro, a popular Brazilian hand frame drum and Michael Lavalle on the Zabumba, a type of bass drum used in Brazilian music. The track opens with a jaunty, upbeat, danceable beat as Sharlin lets loose on his accordion while Kriss’ flute play can be heard faintly in the background. Mauricio and Lavalle take over the fast-paced percussion as listeners could envision hearing this track on the next season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
All in all, Uri Sharlin and the Dogcat Ensemble’s debut album Back to the Woods fuses an unusual musical apparatus in with conventional jazz implements to make distinct tracks that are sure to delight jazz fans who are looking for some variety in their music.