Suite of the East
This exceptional release was recorded in a live, daylong 2006 session after bassist and composer Avital and his quintet had thoroughly polished the seven-track program of original works during a month-long residency at the Greenwich Village jazz club Smalls. Avital, one of an increasingly large number of Israeli-born musicians who have influenced the U.S. jazz scene over the past two decades, claims both Yemenite and Moroccan heritage, and has long championed a style based on a diverse mixture of Jewish and Arabic folkloric traditions. The songs on Suite of the East were inspired during a three-year-long visit to his homeland, during which Avital juggled the study of North African and Middle Eastern forms with further explorations of European classical music. All of those influences surface throughout this session in both subtle and dramatic ways.
On “Free Forever,“ the rolling thunder of drummer Daniel Freedman’s cymbals and pianist Omer Klein’s brisk ostinato lines usher in Middle Eastern-sounding harmonies and articulations voiced by tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm and trumpeter Avishai Cohen. The piece rages like a desert storm before finding refuge in the oasis of Frahm’s extended and, initially, idyllic solo. The long-form title tune suggests the
formal organization of a chamber-music work while tapping yet another vibe that surfaces again on the catchy “Song for Peace” — a gospel-tinged, funk-accented sound with a strong backbeat that echoes the cross-genre style pioneered decades ago by such artists as Horace Silver and Carlos Garnett.
“The Abutbuls” sports a traditional Middle Eastern time signature and harmonies as a tangle of poly-rhythms frame Cohen’s bristling trumpet solo. The set closer, “Bass Meditation,” conceived by the leader as a statement on the possibility of peace in the Middle East, underscores — through a combination of finesse, technique and intuition — why Avital is widely regarded as one of the finest bassists of his generation.