This is the initial recording of pianist Alon Yavnai's sextet (plus guests), a group with an international flavor. Yavnai and Avishai Cohen are from Tel Aviv, Massimo Biolcati was raised in Sweden and Italy, Take Toriyama is a rocker from Japan and George Garzone and Dino Govoni are Americans. All have splendid credentials including several jazz awards and competitions. With these pedigrees, the anticipation for this album is high. Yet the results are mixed as they attack a challenging play list, all but one of which are Yavnai compositions. "One Step at a Time", a ten minute track, lays out a single theme which is explored, expostulated and improvised upon by each member of the troupe playing over Yavnai's piano and Take Toriyama's drums with superlative solos by George Garzone, Dino Govoni and Avishai Cohen. Contrast this with "Spring Fever" where individual efforts are balanced by ensemble work as well as trading off between the sax, trumpet and piano. Despite the good playing technically, the musical purpose of this composition is hard to discern as each member of the group wails (whales?) indiscriminately. One can hear music very similar to this on any number of modern, progressive, avant-garde, whatever, releases by other young lions. "The Long Way Home", an attractive piece of music, incorporates some blues licks. Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step" is played so gently and outright pretty that it seems almost out of place with the rest of the tunes. This tune is in sole possession of the rhythm section where both Yavnai and the rhapsodic bass of Massimo Biolcati dominate. The downside is that for some reason Toriyama's drums come in sounding more appropriate for a Sousa march.
Irrespective of what is being played, Yavnai's piano stands out. His is the glue which holds together some semblance of structure throughout the session, the bulwark against which the musical storm rages. There is not enough here to set it apart from other releases these days. It would be nice to hear what this fine sextet could do with classic and jazz standards. Maybe next time.
Personnel: Alon Yavnai - Piano/Leader; George Garzone - Tenor & Soprano Sax; Dino Govoni - Tenor Sax/Flute; Avishai Cohen - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Massimo Biolcati - Bass; Take Toriyama - Drums; Michal Cohen - Voice; Baoz Nemet - Darbouka