When read as prose, the song titles on If
become a poetic tribute to composer Myriam Alter's idealized concept of “Home.” Ten new compositions make up If
and are in part inspired by Ms. Alter’s Judeo-Spanish heritage. The arrangements further expand upon her musical lineage by additionally acknowledging modern jazz and classical while prominently featuring Jewish music’s long time relationship with the Argentinean tango. The result is a coherent personal musical statement whose roots run deep and is a breath of fresh air to a world musical realm that at times suffocates in its attempt to be stylish.
Recorded in NYC, the session includes drummer Joey Baron and bassist Greg Cohen, both part of John Zorn’s Masada projects. They are responsible for the tight overall sound that unifies the entire CD into a holistic piece. The individual songs charm with their combination of exquisite composition and elegant presentation. Dino Saluzzi is most notable on the bandoneon, an Argentinean accordion-like instrument; he's an experienced stylist who gives the project an enchanting coloration. His bandoneon invokes a range of assorted visions from sultry nights with venturesome dancers to small intimate cafes along wide boulevards bordered by mosaic sidewalks. John Ruocco’s clarinet serves as rich counterpoint to Saluzzi, adding a European sensitivity that enables lovely melodies to assert themselves as serious compositions. Kenny Werner’s piano alternates between solo and rhythm with a precision and economy that is able to buttress Ruocco and Saluzzi as they explore each theme.
If contains subtle familiarities, such as the hint of “Papirossen” embedded in “Home,” but in reality this is new music that draws on the cultural heritage of several musical frameworks. “I Think of It” features avant-garde drum work that finds an up tempo rhythm without ever overpowering. “An Intrigant Melody” blends clarinet, percussion and piano with a modern jazz feel and “Its All There” begins with Saluzzi providing the rhythm while the clarinet warmly plays the line until bandoneon jumps in to succinctly state the melody. “Children Play” has quick precise changes that unfold into a bouncy tune that sharply abates into a lovely accordion/piano duet until Baron and Cohen push it back into high gear. As the song titles themselves gel into a poetic whole, so too do Alter’s cultural influences coalesce into a new musical identity.
This article originally appeared in All About Jazz-New York .
Personnel: All compositions by Myriam Alter, performed by Dino Saluzzi bandoneon;
John Ruocco clarinet;
Kenny Werner piano;
Greg Cohen bass;
Joey Baron drums.