Half Notes: Albert Beger Electroacoustic Band – Peacemaker (2010)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Avant garde specialist Albert Beger has long been known commodity in his native Israel but not so much in America, despite having recorded with William Parker and Hamid Drake on a couple of records. Beger seeks to change that with what he considers one of his best recordings to date, Peacemaker. As the word after his name makes clear, this is avant garde jazz that blends electronics with acoustic instruments. This tenor and soprano saxophonist used these sessions to perform compositions that map out a “a trip to inner self,” not too unlike Mark Lomax sought to do above, but the ultimate destination is inner peace, thus the album’s title. Helping him articulate that vision are Ido Bukelman (guitars), Assaf Hakimi (bass), Avi Elbaz (laptop and electronics), and Dan Benediki (drums, percussion). This is a very commodious set: even on the skronk delight “Triangle,” there is never a feeling that they are trying to fill up all the sonic voids, keeping things angular and economical. Elbaz applies his electronic effects in the right measures, using them to add modern textures to traditional sound, never as a crutch. The compositions don’t follow standard forms — that’s why it’s avant garde, after all — but have definite shape and purpose, with some Middle Eastern influences sprinkled on top. Beger the performer is a good one, he can pour out heartfelt notes and shred them with equal effectiveness, and switch between these modes on a dime. His band is muscular, creative and really in tune with its leader. Peacemaker is a convincing introduction of this Israeli free jazz great to discerning audiences in the USA.

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