The Molotov Quintet | Ridin’ Sideways

Sideways conveys the dynamism of the group’s live performances, which transport audiences to exotic places.

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Combine two extremely gifted musicians (Aaron Banfield and Gabe Lavin). Add equal parts talent from Loren Block, Alex Schwab and Jelani Mahiri. Mix in Latin, flamenco, Brazilian, Arabic, and jazz influences. Shake well, then pop Ridin’ Sideways – The Molotov Quintet’s all original debut – into an appropriate listening device. Enjoy!

Formed just over a year ago, the quintet has already shared the bill with Buddy Guy, Grand Funk Railroad, Steel Pulse and Toubab Krewe. But that fast-burning flame had been carefully kindled. Lavin studied the oud (a fretless instrument which captures the quarter tones in Arabic scales) in Morocco, then in Egypt during the recent uprising, when Molotov cocktails ignited the streets. “So yeah, ‘Molotov cocktail’ influenced our name,” says Banfield.

Recorded at Peach Street Studios in Bozeman, Ridin’ Sideways conveys the dynamism of the group’s live performances, which transport audiences to exotic places with an energy that evokes The Gypsy Kings. The 16 instrumentals effortlessly fuse genres, taking listeners on a world pilgrimage that’s both uplifting and reflective.

The album kicks off with “Jobatito” (a nod to Antonio Jobim and flamenco guitarist Tomatito), featuring Mahiri on bongos and the pandeiro, and Schwab on the cajon. “Country Calamari” really gets things cooking, showing off the bass and drums in 6/8 time. Mixing jazz and Arabic chord progressions, “Oud To Jazz” takes the energy down a notch, with the guiro (a washboard-like gourd) lending a Latin vibe.

“Helado de Mezcal” (written at a Cinco de Mayo gig) reflects playful spontaneity, with Mahiri rocking the clave. Dancing is mandatory on this one!

Recorded impromptu in the studio, “Saharan Swing” has Banfield playing an Afro beat over a pentatonic scale while Lavin improvises, and Schwab keeps rhythm on the cajon instead of the drum set.

The title track, “Ridin’ Sideways” features Lavin on oud and Banfield strumming a flamenco rhumba pattern. Using a bulerias (12/8) flamenco rhythm, the reflective “Paco’s Journey” pays homage to the late flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. “No Daddy, No Samba” (again featuring the cajon) invites more dancing – it’s the next best thing to being in Rio!

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– Cynthia Logan