Sam Barsh – I Forgot What You Taught Me (2008)

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by Mark Saleski

This album had two strikes against it before I heard a single note: 1. the almost nude shot on the back cover, Barsh covering what mama gave him with a melodica and 2. keyboards. OK, the photo isn’t really a big deal. I mean, obviously Barsh has quite the sense of humor and doesn’t take himself very seriously. Keyboards? I can mostly live without them in jazz, especially when they take on the lead role. (Yes, there are exceptions: Herbie, Chick, etc. Please, ignore my inconsistency here.)

So, what won me over?

Very simple: Sam Barsh’s music made me want to shake what mama gave me. Dang, how embarrassing.

I Forgot What You Taught Me is a big chunk of genre-crossing music that tosses a bunch of musics (jazz, funk, pop, reggae) into a pot of simmering insistent groove juice. Hmmm, that was a sort of infomercial description. Maybe Barsh’s own words can do better?

It’s like getting in a hot tub as the water warms your body
Massaged by air jets while chilling out next to scantily clad hotties.
It will beam you up and takes you places, just like Star Trek’s Scotty
Pack a punch but go down smooth much like a Jameson Hot Toddy.

Hmmm… well, I told you he doesn’t take himself seriously.

The tunes seem to fall into two categories: hard groove workouts (“nuTrance,” “Jew Hefner,” “Wake Up And Smile”) and jazz tunes who wish they were hard groove workouts (“Rainy Day Jam,” “Harriet Nyborg,” “This Is The Song”). Underneath either category is Barsh’s band — Jaimeo Brown/drums, Tim Collins/vibes, Ari Folman-Cohen/bass — who make the groove seem effortless.

Without a doubt, my favorite tune here is “Georgia Dub,” with its down-low burn, and “Rainy Day Loop,” the latter being a prime example of lopsided groove that can just barely hold itself together. This and the complement of I Forgot What You Taught Me come together to remind me of a looser version of the instrumental side of Steely Dan. Lots of fun, is what if boils down to.

So here I’ll ‘fess up and be a man about Sam Barsh: he puts together some interesting music (despite my keyboard problem), and, well … he wasn’t completely nude in that picture for the back of the CD: He was wearing shoes and a hat.

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