ALBUM REVIEW: Iordache – “Garden Beast”

Mihai Iordache, photo by Adrian Leonte

album review by Ioana Nica

The saxophonist Mihai Iordache needs no introduction in Romania. His career as alto sax player is rooted in ‘80s and, since then, he has put his unique sound mark on many releases and live collaboration, either with alternative rock and jazz bands of the Romanian music scene (Timpuri Noi, Sarmalele Reci, Orient Express, Jazz Unit, Kumm) or in national and international festivals and appearances in Romania ( Stufstock, Jazz and More, Green Hours International Jazz Fest, Garana Jazz Fest), in Hungary (with guitarist Eichinger Tibor as a guest) or in Belgium (with Eugene Chadbourne).

Since 2003 he is also leading his own band – Iordache, best described as free funk jazz, with whom he has released four album: Friday – featuring Tom Smith (2003), Dissipatin’ (2005, review by Eugene Chadbourne for AllMusic), One Life Left (2012) and Garden Beast (2013). The last two have been released at Iordache’s own independent music label, Fiver House Records.

Florian Radu

Florian Radu photo by RoZa Zah

Garden Beast is concept album inspired by the nearest natural habitat that urban life may have access to: the backyard. There is a subtle link here, executed with the most candid and valid sense of humor: Mihai Iordache is also a nature lover, taking the civic duty to improve and protect the natural environment very seriously. Therefore, the album summons consideration to most simple natural wonders which surround and brings us joy.

Despite the soft sensation of playfulness coming out of Garden Beast, the music is not an invitation to a walk outside the house to see the trees, the flowers and the bees, neither to seek comfortable accommodation for reading a book in quiet. There is a strong feeling of witnessing an independent movie about a living garden and its occupants, where something new happens each day.

Iordache Sebastian Burneci Florian Radu

Mihai Iordache, Sebastian Burneci, Florian Radu photo by RaZa Zah

The album is a band product, with steady themes and switches between lead and supporting instruments. The band is a septet. Besides Mihai Iordache, the brass section brings together the trumpet player Sebastian Burneci and the trombonist Florian Radu. The rhythmic section features Utu Pascu on electric bass and Tavi Scurtu on drums, the guitarist Dan Alex Mitrofan and Toni Kuhn on keyboards. Their music is cinematic, imaginative and animated.

There are songs quite descriptive with melodic solos, keyboard layers and tempered endings. The album title track Garden Beast stands for an excellent choice as opening track, the first expressive sounds of bass are promising an irresistible audition. Captain Rabbit continues at the same note, on funky dance grooves. Summer Rain goes deeper into free style with excellent saxophone and guitar solos. My Dog Zorro brings a pleasing bossa-nova feeling while the Pond Reflection is exquisitely evoking an entire brass band.

utu pascu

Utu Pascu photo by Ioana Taut

sanem by Jože Požrl

Sanem Kalfa photo by Jože Požrl

Nevertheless, Spider’s Dinner, Magnolia and Earthworm are the highlights of the album, with deeper composition techniques. Beautiful tracks with dynamic sudden changes in rhythm and dynamics, syncopation, more free improvisation, and variable solo cadenza.

The only track with vocals, Magnolia is the most contemplative piece from the record, evolving from a soothing voice (the Turkish vocalist Sanem Kalfa as special guest on the album) to trombone and trumpet solos.

The ending track, Earthworm, is quickly becoming a favorite. It kicks off with keyboards and puts together an engaging rhythmic section, saxophone improvisation, trumpet interventions in the most energetic and joyful song ever written about such weird and still fragile creature.

Toni Kuhn

Toni Kuhn photos by RoZa Zah

tavi scurtu

Tavi Scurtu photo by RaZa Zah


Dan Alex Mitrofan photo by Ioana Taut

Listening to Garden Beast made me constantly think of Barrett’s favorite children’s book, The Wind in the Willows, evoking a world with weird but  wonderful characters,  revealing a sweet universe in continuous danger and change which calls for our care and devotion to be kept forever.

More information and audition:

Mihai Iordache – alto saxophone, vocals (on Magnolia), arrangements
Sebastian Burneci – trumpet
Florian Radu – trombone
Toni Kühn – keyboards, electric guitar on Captain Rabbit
Dan Alex Mitrofan – electric guitar
Uţu Pascu – electric bass
Tavi Scurtu – drums, tambourine
– Special Guest: Sanem Kalfa – lead vocals on Magnolia

Recorded at La Bază Studio in Iaşi
Artwork: Medicine Madison


Live recordings:

Iordache – Garden Beast

Iordache – Spider’s Diner


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