Sometimes, the best way to renew tradition is to go back to it, which is exactly what Oren Neiman has done on Frolic and Detour, an album that finds the guitarist digging deep into his Israeli roots while still remaining true to the instrumental voice he established on First Of All (Self Published, 2007). Neiman still works with a quartet, but gone are the fluid runs of tenor saxophonist Mike Stewart and instead he has enlisted the talent of trumpeter Kenny Warren, whose dry and poignant tone brings a distinctively different vibe to the proceedings.
However, the most notable change is in the musical language of the guitarist. The opener, "Jerusalem," which already establishes the link with the homeland, starts out with Doug Drewes playing an evocative pattern on the bass while Neiman adds his signature ethereal tone that has brought comparisons to his former mentor, John Abercrombie. Surprisingly, the tune takes a detour and the structure changes into an oriental groove with arabesque chord changes.
Instead of letting each tone paint a pretty picture, Neiman creates intricate and tightly knit melodies. His runs are clearer, faster and more condensed than heard before, showing him not only as an apt composer and group player, but also as an instrumental virtuoso in his own right.
"D-Day" continues to thrive on the groove factor, with drummer Kenny Shaw laying down a solid beat, and Neiman and Warren starting out in unison only to part ways in a smoking dialogue.
Elsewhere, the beautiful waltzes, "How She Sleeps" and "Lijiang" show the quartet's ability to tackle slower material with emotional impact. What's interesting is how Neiman is able to integrate the traditional folk forms of Jewish klezmer music into a decidedly modern guitar language, referencing everything from Charlie Christian to Abercrombie.
The most refreshing thing about it all, though, is that the play with musical tradition comes across as both joyful and serious. It is detour that places Neiman in the center of modern guitarists with something to say and a new way to say it.
Personnel: Oren Neiman: guitar; Kenny Warren: trumpet; Kenny Shaw: drums; Doug Drewes: bass.