Marbin: Objective goodness

by Caitlin Cohen

Making music together since 2007, Dani Rabin (guitar) and Danny Markovitch (saxophone) of the progressive, all instrumental jazz-rock band, Marbin, are in a fairly comfortable era in their music.

The duo grew up in Israel then moved to Chicago together in 2008. The aesthetic in the chords and harmonies comes from the Israeli/Russian folk world, and what they intentionally include in their writing comes from jazz influences. The project really sprang forward after touring  extensively in 2011.

Fast forward to present day – the band includes Blake Jiracek on drums and Jon Nadel on bass, and have released six albums – with their newest album coming March 3. While successful, Rabin claims this new album is their best work – having taken all the lessons they’ve learned and made them into a personal musical philosophy.

Lesson One is that it’s possible to never get over the feeling of a packed show. It’s about who showed up and how many people are in that shared space because it helps them see how many people form a connection to their music.

“We really started from nothing. We didn’t know anybody and we were playing at bars with one or two people every night. Slowly and gradually, we’ve built it up to where we play pretty packed shows. We appreciate every single audience member out there… when you see a lot of people showing up, it’s not something you get used to. We are very full of gratitude for that,” Rabin said.

Lesson Two is that an improvised musician should treat albums as a way to track progress when going through different eras. Treat live performances as where the true growth will come from. Albums will feel satisfying; the experience comes out of playing music itself.

“When you’re young, you think that the albums are the point and the live shows are a way to make more albums. When you get experience, you realize that music is about making music. It’s about playing… An album usually kind of sums up an era, especially for an improviser. You get to share how you played from point a to point b during a certain time. For example, it may have taken you a few months to make the record but it really is a summary of where you were at between 2016 and 2017,” Rabin said. “…The process of changing happens through playing shows. There are already two paths connecting, one is life itself and the other is a picture that you can revisit and receive a souvenir from.”

Lesson Three is to deliver what you would want to see happen in a live performance. Whatever you look for in other artists’ live shows, do that on stage in your own way. Their approach to shows is to surprise the audience and give them something new each time.

“When I go to a live show, I want it to be a sonic experience. I want to see someone play in a way that is spontaneous. What an improviser does is they organize sound on the spot and so I want to see that happening. That’s what we do,” Rabin said. “When you see us… our songs evolve… it’s like drawing on sand; if you are not there when we blow the slate clean then you will see something completely different during the next performance… we are not tracing, it comes out different every night.”

The final lesson is success and fulfillment come from knowing the difference between understanding what you need to sacrifice and actually having the drive to make those sacrifices. Once you are willing to make those sacrifices, the work in making them becomes a lot more rewarding.

“The most important lesson I’ve learned as a musician is that there are a lot of sacrifices you have to make. If you understand that and are willing to make them it’s a pretty amazing life that opens up to you,” Rabin said. “If you are sure that music is what you want to do and it’s available to you then you must understand that there is a price that you must be willing to pay for.”

See Marbin at Make.Shift on Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. For more information about the band, see their Facebook page or