Pitom
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Pitom

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Avant-garde

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Pitom celebrates its first release with a show next week in Brooklyn. Led by bassist Yoshie Fruchter, second from left, the group bridges Jewish modes, post-bop rhythms and metal crunch.
by George Robinson

He’s much too modest to acknowledge it, but Yoshie Fruchter is a rising star in the small world of Jewish music. A tall, slender young man in his 20s, Fruchter plays bass with Soulfarm and guitar with Chana Rothman but, more to the point, his own band, Pitom, will celebrate the release of its first album with a live performance on Sept. 23. Given John Zorn’s imprimatur on the band’s music (the CD, “punkassjewjazz,” is on Zorn’s label Tzadik), Fruchter is clearly a talent to be reckoned with.

Even if he doesn’t describe himself in such lofty terms, he is well aware of how lucky he is to be making most of his living from his music.

“A lot of my friends
[from the music department at the University of Maryland] are three or four years out of college and going back to graduate school in law or business,” Fruchter says. “When I hear about them, it forces me to think about my own career choices, but my goal is to continue making music.”

In that respect, he is following in the footsteps of his father, Harold Fruchter, also a professional musician, who has been playing the simcha circuit for years.
“There was always music in our house all the time,” Fruchter remembers. In fact, when Yoshie was in his late teens and deciding to try his hand at guitar, it was one of his father’s instruments that he picked up. At the time, he recalls, “grunge was big” and he wanted to sound like guitar heroes from the state of Washington (Kurt Cobain, etc.).
Those years of listening to his father’s music must have had some effect, because Fruchter found that music came surprisingly easily.

“I think I had a good ear,” he says. He also had a teacher who turned him on to a wide range of jazz and rock, and his own band’s repertoire reflects some of that variety, drawing with equal facility on Jewish modes, post-bop rhythms and metal crunch.
Oddly enough, given the density and weight of his own guitar sound on Pitom’s first album, Fruchter cites Jim Hall — a master of melody and, in his solos, something of a jazz minimalist — as a primary role model. “The way I think about my music has been most influenced by Hall,” he explains. “He has a way of trying not to do too much, and that’s something I keep in mind when I’m playing.”

But he also name-checks Arto Lindsay’s noise-rock pioneers, DNA. “That’s the other side of our sound: creating an energy,” he says, emphasizing the last word with a hand gesture. “We try to walk between a planet of melody and a planet of energy.”
Whatever solar system you would call that, it certainly works.
Pitom’s first CD, “punkassjewjazz,” is on the Tzadik label. - George Robinson


To cite the press notes, this quartet abides by a “punkassjewjazz” stylization, as the Hebrew translation for the band’s moniker means “suddenly,” which serves as an appropriate analogy to the unit’s methodology. Think of an electric “Masada” on steroids, for example.

Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter leads an ensemble that furthers record label chief, saxophonist and composer John Zorn’s “Radical Jewish Culture” mindset. Here, the ensemble acutely and sometimes playfully, fuses Jewish traditional music with hardcore grunge rock and jazz improvisation. Moreover, Fruchter and violinist Jeremy Brown surge skyward via complex and streaming unison lines atop crashing and high-impact rhythmic movements. Nonetheless, you don’t get the feeling that these folks are shy or inhibited by any stretch.

The quartet’s modus operandi might contain the audacity and rough housing of an old time Western saloon brawl. Yet, it’s all good! And it’s a wild ride of course as the musicians come at you from many disparate angles. More importantly, the band carves out a nouveau via a rather fiercely generated program, all executed with an authentic group-focused mode of operations. They rock out, but also venture into more than just a few meltdowns. At times, they sound like vintage “Mahavishnu Orchestra” laced with surf music amid “Sonic Youth” drenched reckless abandon. Count this gem as a top pick for 2008, regardless of genre. – Glenn Astarita - Glenn Astarita


Guitarist and composer Yoshie Fruchter is another of John Zorn's recent musical discoveries who works in the increasingly audible – and visible – world of Radical Jewish Culture. Like Koby Isrealite, Shanir Blumenkranz, Jamie Saft, Jon Madof & Rashanim, Eyal Maoz, and several others on the Tzadik roster, Fruchter's dynamic, highly original music is more aptly described as a sort of avant-garde instrumental rock that draws its inspiration from Jewish traditional themes and forms. Though artists such as Sonic Youth, Masada, Bill Laswell, and Frank Zappa are name-checked in Pitom's press packet, the actual result also bears some resemblance to the great mid-1970s Fripp / Bruford / David Cross / John Wetton incarnation of King Crimson that produced over-the-top prog classics such as Lark's Tongues In Aspic, Red, USA, and Starless and Bible Black. Though the similarity is partly due to both groups having the same instrumental lineup, the overall sound concept of the two bands is also similar. Both Fruchter and bassist Shanir Blumenkranz like to play fast and loud, and both use a lot of fuzzy distortion. Violinist / violist Jeremy Brown – like David Cross - prefers a very natural, effects-free tone. Unlike Cross, Brown plays his instruments like a mad Gypsy with his pants on fire. Kevin Zubek's flowing, jazzy, polyrhythmic drumming provides a palpable link to the world of modern jazz, much like Bill Bruford did for King Crimson. Finally, like mid-70s Crimson, Pitom's music is concise, hard-edged, tuneful, dynamic, and surprisingly free of the excesses often associated with experimental rock.
The CD kicks off in a lighthearted manner with the Judaeo-surf rocker Skin and Bones. On paper this looks improbable, but it works. 'Go Go Golem' is, as its name suggests, an ultra-heavy Crimsoid anthem replete with distorted guitars, pounding drums, and fuzz-bass. Blumenkranz gets a gloriously noisy solo in before Fruchter and Brown take the tune completely out into heavy-metal heaven. Like the other heavy-rockin' tracks - 'Minim' (Parts 1 & 2), and 'Robe of Priestly Proportions (Part 1)' – 'Go Go Golem' is blessed with a strong melody, and an interesting non-linear structure. The fact that these guys are superb improvisers only adds to the excitement. Not content to be pigeonholed, Fruchter and his band delve into all sorts of other sounds and rhythms on “Pitom.” 'Robe of Priestly Proportions (Part 2)' alternates lyrical Klezmer-like passages with holwling slabs of fuzzed sludge, and Zubek gets to flash his formidable jazz chops on 'Davita', a swift, jazzy, Masada-like tune with a bounding 6/8 meter. On the other end of the spectrum, both 'The Binding of Burning Books' and 'Shikora' have a super-chilled late-night vibe that wouldn't be out of place on one of Tom Verlaine's instrumental CDs. 'Minim (Parts 1 & 2)' explores a variety of rhythms and time signatures at breakneck skate-punk tempos – the duet between Brown's violin and Fruchter's violently shredding guitar is refreshingly visceral. The CD's lone ballad, the bittersweet 'Sadie's Splinter' closes "Pitom" on a gentle, thoughtful note.

Pitom is a first-rate debut CD by an incredibly creative, remarkably capable, and gutsy band that takes musical risk-taking in stride. This CD is a must-have for Tzadik fans and fans of instrumental progressive rock, as well as for those who simply enjoy intense music in general. - Dave Wayne


Yoshie Fruchter, “Pitom” (Tzadik).

What on earth is this? Well the happily pugnacious leader seems to call it “punka-- Jew jazz.” Or, “radical Jewish music” marrying Klezmer, Frank Zappa and the West Village avant-garde in music you can, by turns, tap your foot to, dance a punk hora to and scare small children with. Actually, it isn’t all that radical. Much of it sounds like the bastard music that might have come out of a kosher version of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra in another era. It’s a quartet of drums, bass, guitar and violin, but they make a splendid amount of rock noise while they wail at their own hilarious downtown version of the wailing wall. Are you ready for music that seems to juggle heavy metal and the theme music from “The Munsters?” It’s great noisy fun from the outer fringes of Manhattan music. - Jeff Simon


Loud, fast and young. Pitom is a New York-based metal rock instrumental quartet featuring guitarist Yoshie Fruchter. Think smart punk with surf, klezmer and Frank Zappa-like embellishments thrown in. It’s rock with substance.

No, this is not klezmer of any sort. But on tracks like “The Robe of Priestly Proportions, Part II” and “Freigel Rock” the progressions and the rhythms scream “Jewish.” That’s probably what attracted Pitom to John Zorn’s record label. As Zorn says, “There’s a feeling in all Jewish music. Feelings are not meant to be written down, they’re meant to be felt.” I definitely concur with Zorn about Pitom. If you like Zorn’s “Naked City”, “King Crimson” or “Weather Report,” you’ll be open to Pitom. I really like what these guys are doing. Caution: This is brutal music, designed to alienate anyone over 30. - Jewish Herald-Voice


...On "Pitom" (Tzadik), guitarist Yoshie Fruchter mixes grunge, jazz, Zappa, noise-rock and a dollop of surf music with Jewish modes and scales to create a loud, raucous album full of noise and virtuosity. The rhythm section can explode with heavy-metal thunder, and when Jeremy Brown enters on viola or violin, you'll hear echoes of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. A dazzling debut... - Wall Street Journal


Occhio, questi graffiano!
Evidentemente il buon John Zorn ha deciso di prendere alla lettera il nome che ha assegnato alla fortunata serie "Radical Jewish Culture". Dopo Koby Isrealite, Jamie Saft, Jon Madof & Rashanim, Eyal Maoz e altri, arriva il tempo per il quartetto guidato dal chitarrista Yoshie Fruchter. Con questo Pitom ci troviamo nel bel mezzo di un incrocio pericoloso fra l'energia dei King Crimson di metà anni settanta, la Mahavishnu Orchestra di John McLaughlin degli esordi e certe escursioni 'rockettare' di Bill Laswell (che non a caso ha curato nel proprio studio di registrazione questo ottimo album, pubblicato dalla Tzadik di Zorn). Senza dimenticare le lezioni più recenti di Sonic Youth e Masada.

Il violino e la viola di Jeremy Brown sembrano offrirsi come agnello sacrificale, con zigzaganti melodie che ci attirano con il loro profumo di miele nella tana del lupo. Quando abbassiamo la guardia, perché siamo ragionevolmente sicuri che non c'è nulla da temere, arrivano le bordate acide della chitarra di Yoshie Fruchter e la musica sembra esplodere nell'aria come fuochi d'artificio multi colorati e imprevedibili. Il profumo è quello della lava incandescente, con lunghe colate sempre ben sostenute dalla ritmica serrata dell'ottimo batterista Kevin Zubek e del funambolico bassista Shanir Blumenkranz. A questo punto anche Jeremy Brown toglie la maschera e si tuffa negli abissi a fianco dei compagni, menando fendenti che ci riportano alla memoria i mitici High Tide di Simon House e Tony Hill.

Da un punto di vista melodico ed armonico la musica che ascoltiamo sembra essere perfettamente calata nella tradizione ebraica, ma l'esecuzione si sposta frequentemente e con decisione verso una aggressività metropolitana che ci racconta i quartieri di Brooklyn molto più che non le sinagoghe misteriose. Nelle sezioni più controllate l'umore è malinconico, riflessivo e dolente. Ma poi basta un istante di distrazione per trovarsi proiettati al centro del percorso dei razzi terra-terra, nei paraggi delle marmitte infuocate dei tank, circondati dai proiettili traccianti che esplodono nell'aria.

I tredici brani sono rigorosamente strumentali e le voci che ascoltiamo sono solo quelle che emergono dalla chitarra elettrica, dal violino, dalla viola, dal basso elettrico e dalla batteria. Ma bastano e avanzano per esprimere tutto quello che si annida nel cuore di questi baldi giovanotti che non si fermano davanti a nulla. E perchè dovrebbero?


Visita il sito di Yoshie Fruchter.

Valutazione: 4 stelle
Elenco dei brani:
01. Skin and Bones; 02. Go Go Golem; 03. The Robe of Priestly Proportions: Part I; 04. The Robe of Priestly Proportions: Part II; 05. Freigel Rock; 06. Lungs and Spleen; 07. Shikora; 08. Minim: Part I; 09. Minim: Part II; 10. The Dregs; 11. The Binding of the Burning Books; 12. Davita; 13. Sadie’s Splinter.
Musicisti:
Yoshie Fruchter (chitarra); Jeremy Brown (violino e viola); Shanir Blumenkranz (basso); Kevin Zubek (batteria). - All About Jazz Italy


Guitarist-composer Yoshie Fruchter brings a punk sensibility to klezmer music on this audacious debut, which features music he’s dubbed “punkassjewjazz.” With violinist Jeremy Brown, drummer Kevin Zubek and Shanir Blumenkrantz on electric fuzz bass, Fruchter’s Pitom quartet affects a deranged-surf-band aesthetic on “Skin and Bones” and “Shikora,” while the more hard-edged, atonal vibe of “Go Go Golem” and “Minim” suggests Sonic Youth and Slayer jamming at a Purim party. The intense unisons on “The Robe of Priestly Proportions” recall Frank Zappa’s ensemble discipline and wah-inflected six-string abandon. Elsewhere, the guitarist incorporates touches of Sonny Sharrock’s shards-of-splintered-glass approach.

-Bill Milkowski - Jazz Times


More than most of the jazz-punk bands on John Zorn's Tzadik label, Brooklyn's Pitom understands that rocking is something you can't annotate. They've mastered the avant-headbanger fury and punishing sludge twurk of Melvins or Weasels-era Zappa, pushing the whole thing through the scales and melodies of frontman Yoshie Fruchter's Jewish heritage--if any band can walk the talk of the word "radical" in the phrase "Radical Jewish Music," it's these guys. Fruchter is equal parts seminary school, jazz school, and Nirvana's "School," doing the same for heavy metal that Zorn's Masada did for free-jazz. "The Robe Of Priestly Proportions: Part 1" is a super-heavy blast of klezmercore, complete with violent, Ponty-esque violin work from bandmember Jeremy Brown, Fruchter's completely ripping guitar work, and giddy bursts of downtown feedback. Also, there's a full-on mosh part.

Pitom frontman Yoshie Fruchter on "The Robe Of Priestly Proportions: Part 1"
What is this song about?

The title of the song was inspired by the robe worn by the High Priest during the times of the Jewish temples. It had bells and pomegranates on its hem, which automatically makes it awesome. The song itself was one of the first that I wrote for Pitom, and started out as this weird salsa jazzy klezmer tune, which wasn't really happening. Once we realized we were a rock band, the tune kind of rewrote itself into the noisy mayhem that it has become.

When did you begin writing stuff like "The Robe"?

I grew up in a Jewish household and playing and singing Jewish music. When I started to get into jazz and avant-garde in college, I also got hip to Tzadik records and John Zorn's recordings. I saw an opportunity to use my strange musical tastes starting from Jewish music and going beyond, to create music that was meaningful to me, and also fun to play. That's when I started writing songs like "The Robe."

When you were younger, what was the first band to truly transfix you with odd time signatures?

My first delving into music outside of the rock that I was hearing on the radio during the early '90s was the prog rock bands of the '70s, particularly King Crimson. I loved the way they rocked, and how insane and complicated but controlled it was. There were also popular bands from my teens, like Soundgarden, who were playing around with odd time signatures that caught my ear. I saw it as a challenge to write music like that... complicated but catchy at the same time.

What's your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?

I think my favorite thing to do is to go down to M and I International Foods in Brighton Beach, get some smoked fish, black bread and cheese and sit on the beach people-watching. To me, eating experiences don't get much better than that. - Village Voice


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.

- dusted.com


Discography

"Pitom" 2008
Tzadik Records

Photos

Bio

Pitom (meaning “suddenly” in Hebrew) is a rocking quartet of guitar, violin, bass and drums that describe themselves as “punkassjewjazz”. Taking cues from an avante/punk aesthetic and the experimental downtown Jewish scene, including Zorn and Hassidic New Wave, this manic foursome plays wild and frenetic melodies, supported by a mixture of dreamlike tones and driving distortion. Klezmer, rock and the avante-garde join together in a true marriage of inconvenience. The band is led by Yoshie Fruchter on guitar and includes Shanir Ezra Blumenkrantz (Yo Yo Ma, Anthony Braxton) on bass Kevin Zubek (Satlah, Lemon Juice Quartet) on drums, and Jeremy Brown (Frank London, Margot Leverett) on violin.