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Bassist Omer Avital wrote the title track to his latest release, New York Paradox, upon moving back to the city from his native Israel in 2005. Drum and piano grooves clatter around an exhilarating, Spanish-tinged bass vamp, as trembling saxophone drones create large-scale structure through textural diversity. The song alludes to its title by treading the line between fervor and anxiety.
In a press release, Avital spells out the paradox in question: “NYC presents an imperfect balance — a certain energy that can be exhilarating and taxing that I have learned to deal with, and sometimes even beat.” This record, Avital’s sophomore release with his Qantar quintet, demonstrates his solution to New York’s alienation and restlessness. Rather than pushing boundaries, these gratifying tunes provide a soulful expression of comfort and community.
Though the Qantar group has gestated only four years — fleshed out by a younger generation of Israeli expatriates — Avital assembled the track list from old compositions. The eight originals, reflecting funk, rock and romantic classical, are sourced from output that dates back to the ’90s. Tracks like “It’s All Good” and “Shabazi” fit snugly within the smooth-grooving, harmonically direct style of contemporary crossover that Avital once helped pioneer on the West Village scene with Brad Mehldau, Peter Bernstein and others.
The circumstances of New York Paradox’s production accentuate the band’s familial dynamic. In addition to releasing the album on Avital’s new label, Zamzama Records, Qantar chose to record in their de facto home base, the Wilson Live! venue, that the bandleader set up in Brooklyn. Rather than writing out parts, Avital opted to develop each arrangement organically through demonstration and group experimentation. The result is a collection of warm and humble tunes that conjures a tangible sense of sanctuary.— Asher Wolf
Featured photo by Lior Tzemach.