This week coincidence strikes again! Both albums I grabbed were recorded at The Bunker in Brooklyn, and both album artists were born in Israel and embrace a new-ish approach to jazz, mixed with forms/songs from their homeland, surrounding middle eastern countries, and beyond. They also both make great driving music!
Trio Shalva - "Breeza" (2013) 7.5/10
Assaf Gleizner - piano, melodica, guitar
Koby Hayon - bass, oud
Nadav Snir-Zelniker - drums, percussion
In a word: cool
Good stuff. A mix of Hebrew songs, originals and some Beatles & Bjork; with modern arrangements reflecting their origin, variety of tone colors thanks to the multi-instrumental skills, and all played with serious spunk. Their is some metric modulation played expertly that will tickle others in the know. For the rest of the, there are plenty of hip Hebrew melodies employed, cool mid-eastern riffs that drive and rock, [both found in the excellent opener "Mizmor Laila (Melody of the Night)" as well as the enlivened and upgraded "Eleanor Rigby"] fun twists in swing and tempo changes ("Ani Godin"), and for those who dig mideastern folk/improvisation there is the splendid oud playing of Koby Hayon blendid with haunting melodica by Gleizner on "Yad Anuga (A Delicate Hand)". Some ballady but artistically fluid piano trio cuts balance things out (the waltz-meets-freetempo "Isabella"). Hard to pick a favorite, but the uptempo opener has many delights. These guys are a good unit. You will dig.
Oran Etkin - "Gathering Light" (2013) - 7.5/10
Oran Etkin - bass clarinet, clarinet, tenor sax
Ben Allison - bass; Curtis Fowlkes - trombone
Lionel Loueke - guitar, vocals; Nasheet Waits - drums
In a word: fanciful
Very cool trio numbers with just bass, drums and bass clarinet; and quintet numbers that have neat instrumentation. The players obviously are relishing this music. Oran Etkin has a sumptuous clarinet tone, his bass clarinet is downright astonishing. The album opens with "Gambang Suling", an Indonesian folk song that cooks and immediately shows off Etkins range and expression on the bass clarinet. "Taxi Dance" is a fanciful romp in 6, one of three numbers about an imaginary, mischievous globetrotter named Tony (!) where Etkin's delightful clarinet and Curtis Fowlkes trombone have a marvelous, dixieland-like rapport. Another fine element and timbre in the mix is Lionel Loueke, who frequently employs electronics to delightful and ear-tickling effect, and fits perfectly behind the horns, when he's not taking fully committed solos. Between numbers like the quirky and oddly funky "All I Really Wanna Do Is Dance" (duo with marvelous bassist Ben Allison) are calmer, reflective pieces like "Shirim Ad Kan" and "Scattering Light", the latter showing Etkin to have a unique voice on tenor as well, and the capacity to entertain at slower tempos. Tunes from Asia, Belgium, a Yiddish song and even a chilled "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" add even more variety; yet somehow the album comes out congruently as a whole, and will likely entice you back for more listens than you may have predicted. Kudos!