Arguably the most talented bass player on the scene and at or near the top of modern day jazz composers . . . about as thrilling as it gets.
‘Song For Peace’ is illustrative of the exciting, empathetic interplay that these musicians developed . . . anthemic, chaotic, spare and peaceful. For the listener, this unpredictability, the shifting dynamics, and a sense of ‘What’s gonna happen next?’ add to the excitement of hearing this agile quintet gallop.”
– Editor’s Pick, DownBeat Magazine
This music bristles with electricity and improvisational fire. There is not a weak cut or even weak moment on ‘Suite of he East’
– Step Tempest
. . . a deep organic fusion of Middle Eastern and North African music with current cutting-edge jazz. . . . incantatory melodies and throbbing rhythmic patterns that are foreign until you feel their universal human celebration . . .
– JazzTimes Magazine
Bassist/composer Omer Avital defines the words creative and prolific, with more than a half dozen new recordings of original music released over the past several years. Suite of The East, Avital’s latest creation, to be released by Anzic Records on April 24, 2012, is the end result of a month-long residency at Smalls (in Greenwich Village, NYC), and a guerrilla recording session, that took place during the spring of 2006.
At this time Avital had a collection of original compositions that were written towards the end of his three-year stay in Israel, and completed in New York City. The compositions naturally belonged together, linked by a common thread that runs through all of the tunes. Avital explains, “During that time in Israel I was studying classical European composition as well as Middle Eastern and North African music – Maqam Theory, and also playing the oud. The compositions on Suite of The East all deal with Middle Eastern and North African themes.”
Avital not only possessed this thematic collection of music, he also had a band in mind that he knew would be willing and able partners in bringing this music to life. When the call came for the residency at Smalls, he promptly recruited pianist Omer Klein (“I met Omer in Israel in early 2005, our connection grew quickly. His unique style really brought a lot to my music and specifically these compositions”); trumpeter Avishai Cohen (“I’ve been playing and hanging constantly with Avishai since 1999. We co-lead the group Third World Love, he plays in most of my bands and on most of my CDs. I also play with his trio, Triveni, and also with him and his siblings in their band, the 3 Cohens); saxophonist Joel Frahm (“Joel and I met around 1992, and I always loved his vibe as a person and as a musician. He’s been touring and recording with my groups for a long time”); and drummer Daniel Freedman (“I’ve known Daniel since 1992 and we’ve been good friends and collaborators ever since. We used to share the bandstand playing with the Jason Lindner Big Band at Smalls in the 90’s and Daniel later played in my band and recorded several CDs with me. I’ve played on his recordings as a leader, including Bamako By Bus, and we’ve been co-leading Third World Love with Avishai since 2002”).
Following the residency, during which it became apparent to the musicians that this band had to be documented, Avital started laying the groundwork to get the band in the studio as soon as possible. “As we were going through the month it was obvious that this was a great band. It was a perfect blend of all of our musical personalities and the compositions just lent themselves to the situation. It was celebratory in a Middle Eastern way, and at the same time it was experimental and expressionistic in a jazz sense,” explained Avital. “Avishai actually came to me at one point and that we HAD TO document this band and this music!”
After the last gig of the residency, the band convened in the beautiful penthouse studio belonging to Leon Dorsey, on the upper west side of Manhattan, recording all the music in one room, no headphones, and with only one day to work with. “Since the band was playing a lot the few weeks before, I didn’t call a rehearsal for the sessions. We just went in there and played. I think we really captured the vibe of the band, and the spirit of these tunes, in a live sense as much as possible,” said Avital.
When a painter is moved to create, he puts paint to canvas; when a photographer is inspired, she shoots; when writers feel their muse, they write. For musicians the process is not that immediate, as it takes time and resources to get a band into the studio, and often years for a recording to reach listeners. This happens more frequently with Omer Avital as he has the good habit of striking while the iron is hot. When he has something special on his hands (in this case the music for Suite of The East, and this dream band), he figures out a way to get the project documented, and worries about how it will reach the public afterwards. “I’ve waited with this recording for six years (!) for various reasons, but it actually sounds as good to me as it did when we recorded it. In some ways, time allows you to understand your creations a little better”, said Avital.
Judging from empathy clearly shared by the musicians, the outstanding musicianship and the sheer joy that permeates these songs, it was worth the wait.