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Dan Aran: Breathing (2009)

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Dan Aran: Breathing No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Dan Aran's Breathing arrived with a short, dour note from Luke Kaven, head of Smalls Records, on the shaky future of indie-label jazz. That's not news and yet Breathing underscores the stakes involved for artists whose work is too fine to go undocumented. Aran, an Israeli-born drummer, is such an artist.

Breathing is very much a jazz record but not a straightforward band date. There are many musicians on the roster, some playing only small roles, although Aran relies on top-tier pianist Art Hirahara
Art Hirahara
Art Hirahara
b.1971
piano
to anchor every track except one. Bassists Matt Brewer
Matt Brewer
Matt Brewer
b.1983
bass
and Tal Ronen handle five tunes each. Trumpeter Avishai Cohen
Avishai Cohen
Avishai Cohen
b.1970
bass
, saxophonist Eli Degibri
Eli Degibri
Eli Degibri
b.1978
sax, tenor
and trombonist Jonathan Voltzok all make substantial contributions. Degibri plays gruff tenor on Arnie Lawrence's mid-tempo "I'm So Blue," and takes up soprano for Aran's "Riva," a Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
's "The Blessing" is a burst of lucidity, the album's improvisational centerpiece.

But it's the subtle textures and tone colors—Nir Felder's mix of acoustic slide and fuzz tone guitar on the rubato second half of the ballad "Sun Bath"; Gili Sharett's lonely bassoon on the melody of Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Porter
1891 - 1964
composer/conductor
's "I Concentrate on You"; Brewer's 5/4 bass feature on "Tenderly"—that give Breathing its radiance, its flavor of surprise. Aran's writing, too, is disarmingly pretty, pure in melodic focus. He opens smartly with "Sun Bath" and the evocative tone poem "Shnozel" and closes with "Yemini Pne," a loping, unorthodox two-chord vamp that gives way to a brighter sequence in 3/4, framed by a joyous staccato line and dueling solos from the brass.

The one big departure—an explicit nod to Aran's ethnic heritage—is "Gul Lihibib," Aharon Amram's hypnotic 7/8 theme, involving cameos by flutist Itai Kriss, trumpeter Ben Holmes
Ben Holmes
Ben Holmes
b.1979
trumpet
and pianist/accordionist Uri Sharlin
Uri Sharlin

accordion
. The Middle Eastern vibe is fleeting, however. Aran's work is steeped first and foremost in straight-ahead jazz and yet the forms and contours are every bit his own.

Track Listing: Sun Bath; Shnozel; I'm So Blue; Riva; Para Ezequiel; The Blessing; I Concentrate on You; Tenderly; Gul Lihibib; Yemini Pne.

Personnel: Dan Aran: percussion, drums; Avishai Cohen: trumpet; Eli Degibri: tenor sax, soprano sax; Jonathan Voltzok: trombone; Itai Kriss: flute; Nir Felder: electric guitar; Ben Holmes: trumpet; Art Hirahara: piano; Uri Sharlin: piano, accordion; Tal Ronen: bass; Matt Brewer: bass; Gili Sharett: bassoon.

Record Label: Smalls Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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