Rotem Sivan has been touted over the last couple of years as an up and coming jazz guitarist. Set to release his second album so soon after his 2013 debut on SteepleChase, Sivan has won praise from folks who should know, like Peter Bernstein and Ari Hoenig. That upcoming album, For Emotional Use Only (September 2, 2014, Fresh Sound New Talent) is a trio date with Haggai Cohen Milo on bass and Mark McLean on drums. Sivan is playing with much grace, a little fire and with the knowledge of how much to deliver either.
“Sefi’s Blues,” one of the ten new Sivan originals that make up this album, isn’t really a blues per se, it’s blues abstracted and put through a bebop gauntlet. Rotem Sivan doesn’t play loud and doesn’t fall back on guitar clichés, because he doesn’t need to. That confidence can probably be traced to his keenness for pianists. “I love the sound of the instrument and the counterpoint you can achieve from the keyboard,” he says. “I adapt piano exercises for the guitar, and piano trios have been the most inspirational for me in terms of the way they interact.”
Check out the part in the middle of the track where’s he does his own call and response, making a remark on a higher octave and replying to it on a lower octave. But the best part comes shortly after that, when he’s playing the two ends at once: a trill at the top end and some bop lines at the bottom. Just like the left hand and the right hand interacting on the piano.
Really good jazz usually involves not just subtleties but devising subtleties that make a real difference to uplift a performance. That usually involves solving the harmonic puzzle a good tune presents and a commanding performance demands. “Sefi’s Blues” tells us that Rotem Sivan has got it mastered.