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In the current climate we are doing our best to keep everyone up to date. All gigs, as we all know, are off.

However, good old YouTube has plenty to offer both old and new to help us survive whilst housebound. Plus now is a good time to stock up on your CDs.

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Alternatively, you could do as they do in Italy and sing from your balcony.

Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

CD Review: Oded Tzur - Here Be Dragons

Oded Tzur (tenor sax); Nitai Hershkovits (piano); Petros Klampanis (double bass); Jonathan Blake (drums).
(Review by Martin P)

These musicians were unknown to me, apart from Jonathan Blake who I recall seeing with the Mingus Big Band at Brecon, I think. 

According to the ECM website, Oded Tzur is from Tel Aviv but is now based in NYC. This is a style of jazz that I used to listen to a lot in the '80s and '90s, much of it on ECM. Artists like Terje Rypdal, Tomasz Stanko, Charles Lloyd and Nils Petter Molvaer. I'm not saying necessarily that they are musically similar, just that there's a certain "sound". I started to get a bit tired of the style and this album reminded me why. 

Tzur has a sound somewhat reminiscent of early Andy Sheppard but without the latter's purity of tone and fluidity. His solos seemed to me to be unfocused. Hershkovits' piano is often what my wife calls "plinky-plonky music" (you've guessed, she's not a jazz fan). The bass and drum parts are largely unobtrusive, which in my book is usually a compliment for rhythm sections. However, some of the bass solos were so quiet that, listening in the car, which I appreciate is not a particularly complimentary environment for music, there were times when I couldn't be sure if the track had finished. My biggest gripe with this album, though, is that most of the tracks are played at a stultifying slow tempo. 

At the first listening, I thought that maybe this album had promise. By the time I got to the end of the fourth track, I wasn't just bored, I was starting to get a bit irritated. 

My criterion for judging an album by a band I haven't heard before is "Would I go to watch them live?" In this case, only if I hadn't slept for 3 nights.
Martin.

Here Be Dragons is currently available on ECM 2020.

1 comment :

Chris Kilsby said...

Aha! Another example of the wonderful differences between listeners in their response to new music.

I was keen to read Martin's review, having listened to the album a couple of times after reading Jazzwise's 4* review - awarded Editor's Choice, and lauded as "having classic written all over". The rest of the jazz establishment are also falling over themselves praising Oded Tzur and his quartet for "A beautiful musical concept perfectly realised" (London Jazz News). Martin is clearly not so easily impressed!

I have to say I also began as a sceptic with Tzur, and my first forays listening to this and previous albums left me largely unmoved. His music is "high chamber jazz" and meditative in the extreme. He is a storyteller, not a headline grabber; his music is tender poetry, not slogans. A whole album played "As If Every Note Was A Choice Of Life" is bound to be hard going!

His tone on tenor is also an acquired taste. Tzur has followed a very deliberate path to developing a smooth, sliding and (very) distinctive tone, apparently influenced by the Indian bansuri (flute).

Forewarned by this knowledge, listening to this stuff in the car is not the best strategy! As Martin acknowledged and found, this is bound to lead to frustration. Recent listening in the peace and quiet of home (one benefit of these Covid times) revealed a lot more to the music (to my ear at least!) - lyrical intensity and subtlety.

Not just from Tzur (love or hate his tone) - this is a top notch band too. I'm a fan of Hershkowits (though not so much as my son, who spent months transcribing one of his rhythmically baffling solos - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcRRAZ9rMq8). I find Hershkovits' playing here a very engaging part of the album - not "plinky plonky" at all!

Anyway, each to his own as they say. While I'm not convinced this is a classic album yet, there is remarkable beauty here. I'll listen again, when in the right frame of mind with time to relax, and I'd certainly go to see them play (whenever that might start up again.....).

Chris K

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