“(Avital’s) idea of jazz includes old and new definitions of swing and temperament, as if the stylistic and generational divisions never existed. Ornette Coleman’s country hymns get in there, as do Woody Herman’s close-harmony writing for saxophones, Charles Mingus’ tetchiness and ensemble friction, Lennie Tristano’s rambling counterpoint and the mesmerizing wail of Pharoah Sanders.”
– The New York Times
“The standout, strumming Spanish guitar lines one minute, sitar-like bent wails the next, with a Mingus-like thump…A ferocity that not only invoked Bird but ranged through some Hendrix-like noise and Bach’s G Major cello suite as well…Instantly recognizable style.”
– The Village Voice
Recorded at the now-legendary Smalls jazz club, these unedited performances remain the only live documents in existence from the group’s critically lauded early years, nearly a decade ago. (See attached New York Times article, ‘No Labels, No Marketers, Just Room to Grow’) The Omer Avital Group has made its home at Smalls, performing there regularly from 1995 until 2000, gaining the admiration and respect of jazz fans, musicians and critics alike. The release of Asking No Permission marks Avital’s long-awaited homecoming to the club and New York City. “(Avital and) drummer Ali Jackson have led the jam-session band, which plays form 2 to 8 in the morning, every Friday for nearly two years, and the communication they’ve developed is extraordinary, “wrote The New York Times in 1996. “They draw on three main rhythm sections: the team of Charles Mingus and Danny Richmond, that of Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, and the Max Roach groups of the early 1960’s.” Avital’s group features a unique ensemble with the unorthodox orchestration of four reeds (three tenor sax, one alto), bass, and drums, allowing the soloists great harmonic and melodic freedom without losing the rich, full compositional possibilities. All the sidemen in this group are internationally acclaimed artists who were first emerging on the world stage during this fertile period. Drummer Ali Jackson, born into a long line of jazz musicians, is the driving pulse of the famed Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and a member of the Wynton Marsalis Quartet, as well as his own Ali Jackson Quartet. Mark Turner, who records for Warner Bros., is one of the most respected and influential saxophonists of our time. Saxophonist Gregory Tardy has recorded for Impulse! and Palmetto, and is a favored sideman among Andrew Hill, Dave Douglas, Tom Harrell, Bill Frisell, and Nicholas Payton. Alto sax Myron Walden, a long-time member of the Jason Lindner big band, leads his own bands and often performs with Dave Douglas, Charlie Haden, and Freddie Hubbard. Charles Owens has been the noted Friday night feature at Smalls for nine years running, always fronting a powerhouse group of contemporary stars playing his original compositions.
“These weren’t just gigs,” says Avital. “The tension of creating something new was in the air and it can be heard on these recordings. Mitchell Borden, the owner and visionary of Smalls, created a liberating atmosphere, allowing the young musicians to pursue their own voices as if they were detached from the outside world.” Luke Kaven, the founder of Smalls Records, sensed the magic of The Omer Avital Group and spent the last of his money on recording equipment to capture over a dozen live performances of the group in its day. “Without these recordings,” says Kaven “there would exist almost no trace of this exceptional group.” The surprisingly fresh and vital energy the group projected caused the jazz press to single out Avital and hail him as one of the most important figures of his generation, as well as a promising contributor to the future of jazz. This acclaim was soon followed by a major recording deal with Impulse! “The gorgeous” (Down Beat) Devil Head was recorded for the label, but following its consolidation with Verve, Avital’s debut as a composer remains locked in Verve’s vault. In 2001, The Omer Avital Group resurfaced on the much-respected Barcelona label, Fresh Sound with the acclaimed release Think With Your Heart. In recent years Omer Avital’s growing interest in both European classical music and the music of the middle east has led him to a period of intense study, both formal and informal. He has been living in Ein-Karem, a beautiful village near Jerusalem, alternately touring, teaching in the Jerusalem Rubin Academy and constantly composing new music. With Avital’s return to the jazz scene in the States and the release of Asking No Permission, The Omer Avital Group has come full-circle. “For me, this is a celebration of the true spirit of jazz,” says Avital, “creating a platform for individual expression within a tight group concept, enabling the musicians to reach their absolute max.”