Ohad Talmor

Auand AU 9023

By Ken Waxman

Poster boy for jazz’s internationalism and adaptability, Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based Swiss tenor saxophonist Ohad Talmor touches on Hindustani, classical, sound collage and rap influences on this fine CD. Yet the strength of his interpretations and the skill of his band mates ensure that the result is jazz.

Besides a bouncy blues composed for his wife, Talmor signals his ties to jazz history with three covers: “Moon”, written by his mentor Lee Konitz; “Background Music”, composed by Konitz’ long-time associate Warne Marsh; and “New York”, an Ornette Coleman line which he embellishes before and afterwards with Hebrew-styled rap.

Contrafacts, the Konitz and Marsh lines are based on standard changes. Here Talmor confidently emphasizes breeziness, with mid-range flutter-tonguing, as drummer Dan Weiss and bassist Matt Pavolka keep the pace steady, and pianist Jacob Sacks comps appropriately when not slipping in circular counter melodies. Even “New York” appears to be less quirky and played more leisurely than most Coleman compositions, with Talmor substituting a romantic undercurrent for Coleman’s usual blues tonality. Except for the near-circus music-like intro and outro, the decorousness of the arrangement is only breached by trumpeter Shane Endsley’s plunger work.

Endsley’s capillary cries, low-frequency trilling from the saxophonist and Sacks’ spacey electric piano chords alternate with snippets of historical speeches on “Americans Dream American Dreams”. Yet the instrumental interludes appear self-contained rather than as comments on the messages of tolerance and hope. Similarly “Tabla Suite” featuring Weiss’ North-Indian chanting and initially a traditional raga, turns into romping jazz by mid-point, with Weiss back behind the kit propelling martial-styled rolls, and the horns vamping.

Stand-out track is Talmor’s “Kaizer Soze”, which is dramatic as a piece honoring a movie character (from Usual Suspects) should be. It’s alive with atmospheric piano cadenzas, husky toned theme elaboration by the tenor saxophone and the trumpet’s grace-note obbligato, which precede harmonized horns descending to a straight-ahead ending.

Talmor and company may create hyphenated jazz, but there’s no hyperbole or hype associated with it.

Tracks: Moon; Tabla Suite+; Americans Dream American Dreams*; Belem; NY Intro; New York; NY Outro; Kaizer Soze; Urban Wife; Background Music

Personnel: Shane Endsley: trumpet; Ohad Talmor: tenor saxophone; Jacob Sacks: piano, Fender Rhodes*; Matt Pavolka: bass, electric bass*; Dan Weiss drums, voice+ on #2

—For New York City Jazz Record September 2011