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  • Jonathan Widran


In his mainstream musical life, veteran percussionist and world rhythms expert Julian Gerstin has played everything from jazz (with Sheila Jordan, Joel Harrison, Mongo Santamaria, et al), punk, salsa, reggae, world beat, choral music and zydeco – in addition to composing for theatre and dance companies and leading his own sextet.

Seeking new creative challenges rooted in his unique passions, he blends biology and his keen sense of rhythmic diversity on Littoral Zone, a collection of 17 partly composed, partly improvised (and ultra exotic and hypno-intoxicating) pieces celebrating his favorite – wait for it – snails, squids and scallops, collectively known as mollusks. Science note for the curious (and to keep you busy as you listen to Gerstin’s fascinating patterns and trippy, colorful soundscapes: Mollusca is the second largest phylum of invertebrate animals after the Arthropoda; its members are known as molluscs, or mollusks.

Challenging the intellect as well as the listener’s ability to engage in an intense 50 minute session of dense and intense polyrhythms, the percussionist – whose primary tools of expression are percussion, vocals, berimbau, ocarina and whistles - will have you pondering and no doubt Googling the meanings behind quirky bio class titles like “Dentalium Elephantium,” “Purpura” (one of the most engaging tracks, featuring an island vibe created by guest marimba master Steve Rice), “Corculum cardissa” (a playful jazzy number featuring Anna Patton’s buoyant clarinet), “Janthina janthina” and “Hexaplex radix.”

To get you started on this unusual but ultimately rewarding and infectious musical journey, the definition of Littoral Zone is the part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore. Gerstin’s doing more for jazz and biology than any artist since Spyro Gyra!

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