A couple of years ago I reviewed the debut album from B3B4, an innovative jazz organ quartet led by Hammond B-3 maestro Kevin Gerzevitz. I wrote, “Every new groove will surprise you, at least a little bit.” That was an important distinction because the Hammond B-3 craze was running at full steam in May of 2018, and I needed the fun and inventive B3B4 to break up the monotony and to keep the trend fresh and interesting. Little did I know that Gerzevitz, now going under the name Kosmos G, would deliver a second album so completely different from the first that I took me a while to make the connection. This is the same guy?
Kosmos G has just released his debut album, Elektrik Teke, and it initially sounds completely different from B3B4. There’s very little or no jazz in it. Elektrik Teke, as explained by Gerzevitz, was “conceived many years ago while performing in an old-time Rebetika band. During that time, I learned several old rebetika melodies that I’ve re-imagined in a modern, electronic/rock context.” Rebetika is a form of Greek “urban music” that first appeared in the late 19th century and enjoyed a revival in the ’60s and ’70s. It sounds more Middle Eastern than Greek to me, which is probably due to its origins in Byzantine and Ottoman musical traditions. I used to go to a Greek restaurant in Los Angeles, and they’d have belly dancers perform in the afternoon. Rebetika is the music they would play, if that helps you out.
Elektrik Teke is very similar to B3B4 inb two ways. First, it’s a blast. Kosmos G is about fun, whimsy and groove underneath that blanket of folk traditions. You can easily imagine Gerzevitz performing this music straight for a number years while the ideas burst forth like a circus performer being shot out of a cannon. Second, Elektrik Teke is driven by the keyboards. Kosmos G employs at least a couple of musical genres to surround these basic themes–the type of electronica that’s submerged in an ocean of odd sound effects, and a hard modern nu-rock veneer that reminds me of everyone from Captain Beefheart and Zappa to Faith No More and Mr. Bungle.
My only caveat here is that Kosmos G occasionally uses a rebetika theme more than once, which can sound repetitive if you’re listening casually. In truth, there’s usually something much deeper going on, something hidden in the beat that will make you look at that theme with a different perspective. If that’s an issue, simply listen to Elektrik Teke in smaller doses. It’s worth it. I can’t think of a recording this year that has been more fun to listen to, and more instructive when it comes to learning about a previously unfamiliar genre. Kudos, Kosmos!