So some times it takes me a couple of listens and also thinking about the music and what the musician is trying to accomplish to truly understanding and like an album. I believe that is the case with the latest release from bassist/composer Omer Avital Suite of the East I had never heard of this Israeli jazz bassist, composer and bandleader before the other day when his album showed up on my “Just for You” list on MOG. Here’s some background on Avital:
Avital was born in the small town of Giv’atayim to Moroccan and Yemeni parents. At age 11, he began his formal training, studying Classical Guitar at the Giv’atayim Conservatory. Upon entering Talma Yalin, Israel’s leading High School for the Arts, Avital switched to the acoustic bass and began studying and arranging jazz. At the age of 17, he began playing professionally in various jazz, pop, and folk bands, as well as performing regularly on national television, radio, and in numerous jazz festivals. After spending a year in the Israeli Army Orchestra, he moved to New York in 1992 where he began playing, recording and touring professionally.
Once he landed in New York…..
Omer Avital made an impact on the New York jazz scene with a series of breakout piano-less groups at the original Smalls jazz club, including a classic sextet with four saxophones, bass and drums. He was the subject of frequent features in the New York Times…. …..Following the release of his debut album, Think With Your Heart, in 2002, Avital returned the following year to Israel, where for 3 years he studied classical composition, Arabic musical theory, Oud and traditional Israeli music
In the eight years since his return to New York Avital has released seven albums. The latest being Suite of the East, which I listened to today. Suite Of the East, has met with critical acclaim and was named Best Album of 2012 by TSF Jazz. One of the stand-out tracks for me on the album is “Song of Peace” and I am not the only one with that opinion….
‘Song For Peace’ is illustrative of the exciting, empathetic interplay that these musicians developed . . . anthemic, chaotic, spare and peaceful. For the listener, this unpredictability, the shifting dynamics, and a sense of ‘What’s gonna happen next?’ add to the excitement of hearing this agile quintet gallop.”– Editor’s Pick, DownBeat Magazine
It’s the chaotic , unpredictability, and the shifting dynamics of the music that leaves me on first listen less than enthralled, but I know upon repeated listens I will learn to like the album. JazzTimes Magazine says this about Avital’s music…..
. a deep organic fusion of Middle Eastern and North African music with current cutting-edge jazz. . . . incantatory melodies and throbbing rhythmic patterns that are foreign until you feel their universal human celebration . .
If I take away the chaotic shifts in the music and just focus on the music and the players I am impressed by each musician particularly Avishi Cohen’s trumpet playing. Here’s the full line-up of players on the album Avishai Cohen – Trumpet Joel Frahm – Tenor Saxophone Omer Klein – Piano Omer Avital – Bass Daniel Freedman – Drums Currently Avital tours with many projects, including the newly formed Band Of The East, a group evolved from Suite of The East and citing influences from North African and Middle Eastern music. The group consists of Gregory Tardy, Jason Lindner, Daniel Freedman and the young guitarist Nadav Remez. Here’s a performance of “Suite of the East”