Yoron Israel should be no stranger to Jazz fans. He is an active jazz educator on the faculty at Rutgers for the past seven years, and has often been a featured artist in residence at the Vermont Jazz Center Summer Workshops. His latest CD with his sextet, Connection, is a live recording from the Blue Note in March, 1998. Connection has been together for several years and this unity supports Israel in the doubly difficult task of drummer and bandleader. Kenny Burrell, who employed Israel’s services in the late ‘80s said he has “special ability as a drummer, composer, and bandleader.” This disk serves as evidence of that ability, as Yoron wrote two compositions for the date, leads the sextet through seven diverse songs, and furnishes his powerful, musical touch to the drum kit that has made him an “in-demand artist.”
Special guest Steve Turre performs on trombone and shells. Ed Cherry on guitar, Eric Alexander on saxophone, Brian Carrott on vibes and Sean Conly on bass fill out Israel’s regular band. The set starts with vibes and drums interweaving exotic lines. Bass and guitar join in and develop the intro into a groove that kicks off Freddie Hubbard’s “One Of A Kind.” Turre delivers an eloquent and swinging solo on trombone. Ed Cherry’s guitar invokes a Far Eastern quality and provides a lush launching pad for a potent, tenacious, and probing solo from Eric Alexander. The Washington state native has led several highly regarded sessions for Delmark and Criss Cross.
Throughout this disc the light sounds of the guitar and vibes create strong contrast to Alexander’s throaty and complex improvisations. Brian Carrott shines on vibes. On Ed Cherry’s composition “Mogadishu,” his gentle harmonic statements provide the perfect background for improvisation from Cherry and bassist Sean Conly. As a soloist Carrott provides the momentum to propel sax, drums, and vibes that create a three-way call and response on Monk’s “Bemsha Swing.” Turre’s shell playing combined with the steel drum sound that Carrott urges from his vibraphone creates the Caribbean flavor that underscores the lovely arrangement on Israel’s “Nostrand Avenue.” Israel’s other original, “Amaylah’s Song,” has a distinctly Brazilian flavor. Yoron composed this for his second daughter. Cherry and Carrott enhance the Latin feel. Cherry has recorded with Paquito D’Rivera, played in another sextet with the late Milt Jackson, and is adept at playing along with vibes.
Jimmy Heath’s “Mellowdrama” is provided a soul jazz groove by Israel and bassist Conley. Ed Cherry drives the momentum with a remarkable solo that is smooth and exciting. Alexander’s saxophone pushes the piece to its crescendo, and it ends back in the groove. The set concludes with an energetic reading of Mulgrew Miller’s “The Eleventh Hour.” The group joins on the melody and then embarks on a series of solos, duets, trios, and short drum passages. This is a very satisfying album. It is well recorded and translates the excitement of a great live performance.
TRACK LIST: One Of A Kind; Mogadishu; Bemsha Swing; Nostrand Avenue; Amaylah’s Song; Mellowdrama; The Eleventh Hour.
PERSONNEL: Yoron Israel, drums; Eric Alexander, saxophone; Ed Cherry, guitar; Bryan Carrott, vibraphone; Sean Conly, bass; and special guest Steve Turre, trombone and shells.
Originally published in Jazz Improv Magazine, copyright 2000, E.S. Proteus, Inc. Reprinted with permission.