Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter’s band Pitom (with Jeremy Brown on violin and viola, bassist Shanir Blumenkrantz and drummer Kevin Zubek) plays an entirely winning combination of skronky rock with the Masada songbook. On their eponymous Tzadik debut, they mix in a little Ventures, a dash of the Nels Cline Trio, and some of Marc Ribot’s post-everything approach to the guitar music (especially on “The Binding of Burning Books”), and you’ve got a helluva fun record.
Fruchter was raised as an Orthodox Jew in Silver Springs, Md., before moving to Brooklyn, and his background shines through on Pitom, which translates as “Suddenly” in Hebrew. Instead of going out on Friday nights, he’d stay in and sing traditionals with his family, a pastime that resonates in the chords and phrases of his avant-garde jam sessions. It’s no wonder that upon migrating north, Fruchter quickly became one of the young stars of New York’s Radical Jewish scene.
Brown’s keening, crying approach here is a winning one, and the violinist has some electrifying moments. But ultimately, Pitom is about heads and grooves, and sheer intensity of the varied materials. It’s no particular surprise that four gentlemen with beards like this are adept at heavy music (even less so considering the group’s motto is “punkassjewjazz”), but the hesher stomp of “Go Go Golem” is still head-turning.
There’s a similar effect on the two-part “The Robe of Priestly Proportions,” which opens with great distorted bass, out-of-time drums, and more furious rock before bullying its way into a more conventional klezmer section. While they occasionally go straight to the neo-traditional goods, as on the swinging “Davita” or the lilting “Shikora,” they generally put several genres into the Cuisinart at once. For example, “Freigel Rock” has a dizzying array of polyrhythms and a kind of quirky Zappa-like progression. It’s also pretty hard to resist these melodious heads (though they’re not so catchy that Fruchter himself doesn’t mutilate them with feedback assaults and so forth, as he does on “The Dregs”). A terrific record, unafraid to be fun and – at times – funny.