Michael Chapman & Ehud Banai – EB=MC²
NaNa Disc – 17 August
I’ve been listening to a lot of acoustic guitar music recently, particularly the back catalogue of the Tompkins Square label. So coming across a new Michael Chapman album was a great find, except that even thinking EB=MC2 as Chapman-only is doing a great dis-service to Ehud Banai, and to the music.
Chapman has been around forever and is still turning out great tunes that are by turns intricate, delightful, soulful. Banai, a fan of Chapman’s since the Seventies, creates as a good a sound and adds a new depth to the soundscape. EB=MC2 an album produced in Banai’s native Israel brings these two together – and shows that the adage about old dogs and tricks is far from the truth.
So, how would you describe the album? I suppose enigmatically might be the response. When I loaded it into iTunes it came up ’unknown genre’. I would take that as a compliment – especially as it often wants to classify much of my folk music as reggae. But the ‘unknown genre’ is quite accurate as it would be wrong to pigeonhole this album in any way. Sure, we know that Chapman plays acoustic guitar with a mix of folk, Americana, blues and jazz influences swirling around, but add in Banai, particularly at his most Hebrew-ic (is that a word?), and another dimension is added to an already successful recipe.
Angel and Sometime You Just Drive both lulls you into the almost too comfortable warmth of the bright acoustic guitar and then in from the distance comes Banai, his wordless vocals on the latter a different sun rising from a distant land, seeping in, suffusing the tune with both warmth and edge. In another tune, the mix is much more to the fore; Chapman’s acoustic and Banai’s tar – an Iranian lute – bring cultures together in a subtle way, leaving the listener aware of the differences but also enjoying the holistic nature of it, something that is easily lost in many examples of “east-meets-west” music. Even the title brings these things together, with a bit of tongue in cheek: Guitarar.
There are three instrumentals: Guitarar, Plain Old Bob and Ehud. Plain Old Bob has been out before, on Fish, (Tompkins Square), but here, as with The Mallard, we get that different dimension, a different texture. These are no longer solo pieces but duets, perhaps in part Banai getting to play with his hero, but I think much more of two equals having some fun – you only have to watch the videos on YouTube to see this. And as if to push that home, Ehud, clearly a tune for Banai, is written by Chapman.
There are collaborations: Angel, This Thing Has No Name (possibly my favourite – at the moment) Birdman and Rosh Pina. Rosh Pina is the area in Israel where Banai grew up. This Chapman tune with lyrics by Banai has the best line to epitomise this album, perhaps a homage to Chapman but should be taken as a creed the world over: “And your guitar, so clear and bright, is like a cure to the broken heart”.
Order it here: https://lnk.to/MichaelEhud