Abe Ovadia – Three by Three (2014)

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a review about a stellar performance by Abe Ovadia — a young up and coming guitarist who creates his own rules and is an imitation of no one. Since that time. he’s been headlining nearly all of the major jazz clubs in New York, including the Iridium. But most recently, he’s come out with his second album as a leader.

Ovadia’s new release Three by Three features all original tracks with his new collaborators Anthony Pocetti (organ) and Jarrett Walser (drums). With the trio, Ovadia begins to show a fresh new side than from what we heard several years back on his debut album, The Jem.

The album leads off with the title track “Three by Three,” which is a medium groove in 4/4 and will get you swaying back and forth and nodding your head right from the get go. The blend between Pocetti and Walser is so smooth, providing a perfect set up for Ovadia to weave in and out. The chemistry among the three is unquestionable and is consistent throughout the entire album. Next up is “N4” and further demonstrates Ovadia’s ability to put together hip melodies overtop rhythmic grooves—a theme throughout.

As I find with most great musicians, their albums are those that you can listen to over and over, and each time you listen to it, it can become a different album entirely — new subtly brilliant pieces of the puzzle suddenly emerge that make the bigger picture completely different from when the last time you listened to it. This is exactly what we have with this record.

The next tune is “Kenny Compassion,” followed by “A Smalls Stander,” which if you’ve ever frequented Smalls jazz club in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village, you’ll know exactly where the title and matching ambiance of the song comes from.

“Departure Point” is an up-beat track in 3/4 time. What is great about this album is that even with the faster tracks such as this, nothing is overstated. Everything is controlled and based a solid rhythmic and harmonic foundation, and is in its right place, making it easy to listen to. And, the final track “Pajamas for Henderson,” an ode to the great Joe Henderson, is sure to have you leaving the record smiling and in an uplifted mood.

Ovadia, who is only 26, is clearly coming into his own, developing a sound that is unique from anyone out there on the scene. He’s like a gumbo of of McCoy Tyner, Pat Martino and Kurt Rosenwinkel mixed together, but at the same, he always maintains his own identity. These days, many younger musicians seem to be placing too much value into the intellectual side of the music while neglecting the emotional. Ovadia doesn’t make this mistake. Rather, he follows his heart, letting the present moment, energy, and emotion guide the way.

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David Greenberg

David Greenberg is a PhD researcher in music psychology at the University of Cambridge in England.He also plays saxophone in various groups including the Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra. Follow him on Twitter: @dgreenberg7. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.