If James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, Omer Avital could have given him a run for his money in jazz as this highly creative and prolific musician has churned out more than a half dozen new recordings of original music having been released over the past few years. Let's see the pop star of today do that!
Suite of The East is Avital's latest and arguable finest offering to date. This phenomenal recording is the end result of a month long residency at Smalls in the Village in New York City and what could best be termed a guerrilla recording session, that took place during the spring of 2006. This celebratory release of cultural diversity is the culmination of Avital's three year study of classical European as well as Middle Eastern and North African music with the resulting amalgam a unique hybrid that sidesteps standard categorization with relative ease. The release literally began with his studies in Israel and ended with his stay at Smalls. Given the extremely close knit community of world class performers, Avital had the band in mind all most from the very beginning which includes trumpet phenom Avishai Cohen and saxophonist Joel Frahm Omer Klein and drummer Daniel Freedman also join in for an ensemble that does not simply repeat Avital's musical ideas but frames his musical vision as you would a lovely photo to put on display in a prominent place.While with familiarity there is a certain special amount of musical chemistry that is more than blatantly obvious, there is a musical synergy where the collective come together as one harmonious train of thought.
Trumpet phenom Cohen may have been the first to recognize this special collection of talent combined with compositional excellence was a recording that was more destiny than specific idea. "Free Forever" opens this stellar recording with a unique introspection, a contemplative feel but with a melody so beautiful as to ring out in the joyous hope of a special freedom sought by all mankind. Freedman owns the pocket and both Frahm and Cohen play as one one voice. Shifting meter, changing dynamics and a lyrical sense of purpose have this most formidable quintet working without a musical net. "Song For Peace" is a syncopated folkloric tune with wonderful harmonic development. A tune that lingers long after the final notes. Omer Klein gives a stand out performance on piano and is soon joined by Frahm and Cohen. The compositional excellence on display by Avital shows incredible discipline and the roots of a true musical visionary. The release closes with the ominous, reflective and thought provoking "Bass Meditation." The tune as listed on the release is concerning the possibilites of peace in the Middle East.
As both an instrumentalist and composer Avital is the epitome of the searching artist. While dealing with a topic as potentially incendiary depending upon which side of the political fence you may sit on, the joyous abandon with which this musical collective operates is reason enough to give one hope when a situation seems hopeless. The pure bliss of friendship with the common musical bond as the glue holding their own vastly different backgrounds together can serve as the ideal guide book on what a true and real search for peace can be from both a global and individual perspective.
This is an epic recording. While not done with the expressed intent of releasing a work to promote harmony in the Middle East, this celebratory work is a classic destined to have a long and glorious shelf life.
5 Huge Stars!
Omer Avital - Suite Of The East
1. Free Forever
2. Suite of The East
3. Song For Peace
4. The Mountain Top
5. Sinai Memories
6. The Abutbuls
7. Bass Meditation (on the possibilitEast)y for peace in the Middle