Marty Ehrlich + Ben Goldberg

Light at the Crossroads

SGL 1511-2

“On original tunes ranging from the moody, melancholy ‘Dark Sestina’ to the swooping, gravity defying acrobatics of ‘Hopeless,’ the pair spar and parry with obvious relish.”

— Art Lange, Pulse!


In modern jazz the clarinets, despite their often modest profile as instruments saxophonists double on, have had some illustrious proponents, from Jimmy Giuffre and Eric Dolphy to John Carter and David Murray. This CD brings together for the first time two outstanding reed players exploring the expressive potential of a clarinet and/or bass clarinet frontline. Interpreting their own fine compositions (and one by Wayne Horvitz) in the company of a swinging rhythm team, Ehrlich and Goldberg have given us a poised yet heartfelt session that draws inspiration from the last several decades of jazz (at least) as well as elements of classical new music and world music. At various times lyrical, joyful, reflective and sombre, the music stands somewhat apart from their previous work as leaders and testifies to the synergy of their conceptions.

Equally fluent on clarinets, saxophones and flutes, Marty Ehrlich is a much-acclaimed member of New York’s jazz world. He leads and composes for his Quartet or Quintet (5 CDs on Enja, the latest New York Child) and chamber group The Dark Woods Ensemble (Emergency Peace and Just Before the Dawn, New World). There are also duo CDs with Muhal Richard Abrams (The Open Air Meeting, New World) and Anthony Cox (Falling Man, Muse). He has performed and/or recorded with Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Jaki Byard, John Carter, Anthony Davis, Jack DeJohnette, Don Grolnick, George Gruntz, Chico Hamilton, Jerome Harris, Julius Hemphill, Wayne Horvitz, Leroy Jenkins, Oliver Lake, Myra Melford, Roscoe Mitchell, Bobby Previte, George Russell, Leo Smith, and John Zorn, appearing on over 80 recordings, and has been active as a producer for several labels. Commissions include pieces for the New York Composers Orchestra, the Boston Jazz Composer’s Alliance, the New York String Trio, the Lydian String Quartet, and pianist Ursula Oppens.

San Francisco clarinetist/composer Ben Goldberg currently leads the New Klezmer Trio (Melt Zonk Rewire and Masks and Faces, Tzadik), the Ben Goldberg Trio (Here and Now, Music and Arts), and Ben Goldberg’s Brainchild, an 11-piece group that performs his spontaneous compositions. Upcoming CDs include Twelve Minor (Avant) featuring Miya Masaoka, 8 Phrases for Jefferson Rubin with John Schott, Michael Sarin, Larry Ochs, Lisle Ellis and Trevor Dunn, and What Comes Before with Schott and Sarin. Other CDs include Junk Genius (Knitting Factory Works) with Schott, Dunn and Wollesen, and The Relative Value of Things with Wollesen. He plays with the Graham Connah Group and Snorkel, appears on record with Connah, Ellis, Allen Lowe/Roswell Rudd, and Charlie Hunter, and has performed with Masada, George Lewis, Cecil Taylor, Bobby Bradford, Andrew Hill, Mark Dresser, ROVA, Kenny Wheeler, John Tchicai, Alvin Curran, and the New York Composers Orchestra. Ben says, “I’m honored to have an opportunity to work with Marty Ehrlich. His imagination, honesty and expressiveness make him an important voice in music today.”

San Francisco bassist Trevor Dunn is a member of Mr. Bungle (CDs on Warner Brothers) and the Ben Goldberg Trio, and has also recorded with Bob Ostertag, Graham Connah, Dmitri Matheney and John Schott. He has performed with John Zorn, Hal Stein, Donald “Duck” Bailey, Mark Izu’s Bass Quartet, Kronos Quartet, ROVA, Terry Riley, Jon Hassell, Henry Kaiser, Leo Smith, John Tchicai, and James Tenney, and is composing music for his own trio.

NY (formerly SF) drummer Kenny Wollesen has played and recorded with John Zorn, Tom Waits, and Big John Patton, played with Art Lande, Marc Ribot, Wayne Horvitz, and Slide Hampton, and recorded with Dave Binney, Hal Wilner, Nick Cave, Jim Hall, and Eddie Henderson. He is currently gigging with Madeleine Peyroux, Sex Mob, Ilhan Ersahin, and Kamikaze Ground Crew. He also plays drums/ percussion on Andy Laster’s Interpretations of Lessness.


Bill Milkowski’s Top 5 for 1997

Jazz Times Writers Choice 1997: Aaron Cohen

****1/2 “A smart session of original tunes played beautifully. Co-leaders Ehrlich and Goldberg suggest other potentialities stowed away in the black horn…There’s rarely any strain to the reeds — instead, they emphasize forthright melodic content and the dark sonorities and emotional complexity of the unadorned clarinet.” — John Corbett, Down Beat

“They outdo themselves with gorgeous tone colours and melodies that challenge and stick with you. One of the best new CDs I’ve heard this year.” — Spike Taylor, Exclaim!

“Ehrlich…is possessed of a pearly tone and a penchant for loping phrases…While somewhat more given to the horn’s extremities of tone, Goldberg too is possessed of a vibrant melodic sense grounded in pentatonic scales and modal feel. Paired up with the resonant-timbred bass of Trevor Dunn and  percussion of Kenny Wollesen, this quartet eschews a chordal approach in favor of a loose limbed line and counterline concept that frames both the instrumental range and and improvisational qualities of the two principals. On Ehrlich’s elegy, ‘I Don’t Know This World Without Don Cherry,’ he clearly invokes the spirit of Cherry a la ‘Complete Communion’ with buoyant floating rhythm joined by springy dance lines, counterlines and unisons. Goldberg’s ‘What I Lost’ and ‘April 4’ are studies in long tones and counterline harmony that unfold with a deliberate sense of reflection. Throughout, this set  revels in serving the music, the shape of the line, and intimations of melody with attention to the the textures of Bb and bass clarinets. Suffused with a quiet optimism and joy, ‘Light at the Crossroads’ reveals yet another set of instructions in the resurgence of the clarinet.” — Joseph Murphy, 5/4 Magazine

modern/creative jazz
  1. Texas
  2. I Don't Know This World Without Don Cherry
  3. What I Lost
  4. Ask Me Later
  5. Dark Sestina
  6. Hopeless
  7. Twos
  8. April 4
  9. Light at the Crossroads
  • Marty Ehrlich & Ben Goldberg, clarinet & bass clarinet
  • Trevor Dunn, bass
  • Kenny Wollesen, drums, bug
  • Compositions by Ben Goldberg (1, 3, 6, 8), Marty Ehrlich (2, 5, 7, 9), Wayne Horvitz (4)
  • 20 bit recording
  • Release Date
    March 31, 1997