Omer Avital – Suite Of The East (2012)

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Rockin’ the Jeff Lynne look especially with aviator sunglasses, Omer Avital might not be ready to lead ELO, but a half dozen years ago he led a stellar band through a set of seven original compositions conceived during a three year stint in Israel. Recorded quickly in one day in a Manhattan upper West side studio, Avital let Suite Of The East ferment for six years before finally setting it free to the public. After several satisfying listens of it, I humbly ask Mr. Avital, “what took you so long to release this great music?”

A believer of striking while the iron is hot, this acoustic bassist, composer and bandleader rounded up his band right after finishing a month-long residency at NYC’s famed Small’s Club because he knew the time was right to record these songs ironed out during the residency. And the band was right, too: joining Avital was Avishai Cohen (the trumpet player, not the bass dude), Joel Frahm on sax, Omer Klein on piano and our Bamako By Bus hero Daniel Freedman on drums. We’ve heard Avital on records by Cohen and Freedman and the three make up three-fourths of the Third World Love quartet. Frahm is, to be forthright, one of the best tenor men working in New York these days.

Omer Klein is perhaps the least familiar name of this special quintet, but I see him as the central ingredient of this set. Suggestive of a McCoy Tyner but with a lighter touch, Klein is not only bringing to life Avital’s melodies, but also plays as much of the role defining the tempo and rhythms as Freedman. Everything seems to revolve around this guy, and he performs superbly under the spotlight. And Avital gave him terrific melodies to work with. All of them are memorable, and while he might have constructed them with Middle Eastern/North African music forms in mind, in the hands of this ensemble, they appeal in a very universal way. Everyone is playing loose, but there’s nothing that gives off any kind of vibe that this was rushed through in a day. Then again, all the rehearsals occurred at Small’s.

“Free Forever” (YouTube above) is a galvanizing tune, paced by Klein’s lively dancing, and accentuated with a horn front line that sounds twice as big as it is. Frahm’s sweetly soulful sax is the focal point on “Suite Of The East,” and later, a relaxed but inspired interchange between him and Cohen. Cohen’s trumpet applies just the right balance of sassy and seductive tone over a sort of second line rhythmic pattern on “Song For Peace.” Other songs also make adept use of interlocking harmony and deceptive rhythms that Freedman makes seem easy, even if they weren’t designed that way; “The Abutbuls,” which is the most Middle Eastern sounding track on this album, is a great example of that. It’s only when we reach the final track, “Bass Meditation” that Avital comes out front, in a contemplative solo bass performance.

Suite Of The East released April 24, brought to us by Anzic Records. Visit Omer Avital’s website.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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