Live Sessions, Israeli-born Boston-based pianist Gilad Barkan's second release, features him in two different settings. The first was recorded in June 2004 with bassist Dan Greenspan and Either/Orchestra drummer Harvey Wirhtthe same trio from his debut, Modulations (New Step Music, 2004)with the second taken from a May 2006 performance with Wirht, fellow Israeli flautist Amir Milstein and master bassist John Lockwood. Both sessions were recorded for Boston's WGBH radio station and present Barkan as a mature and original composer and player.
The first disc shows Barkan as a nuanced and lyrical player, and as a leader who emphasizes tight, organic interplay. He leads his trio masterfully on the up-tempo "Modulation, flowing with ideas that he continues to explore, while always keeping the improvisation coherent and concise. The elliptical pieces "Affection" and "This is Love" bring to mind some of Keith Jarrett's contagious melodic compositions for his '70s European Quartetwarm, fleet and elegant, with lively and intelligent swing from Wirht.
Barkan's celebration of his mother's wedding, "Amaravati Devi is Getting Married," is one of the most engaging pieces of the session; the pianist spicing it up with a short theme derived from a Yemeni folk dance he did as a child. "Mr. Arnedo" can be considered as a conscious nod the understated lyricism of Bill Evans.
Barkan's playing and writing are considerably more personal and extroverted on the second disc, thanks to the presence of Milstein, who has played with the influential Israeli world music ensemble Bustan Abraham and the Brazilian-tinged Tucan Trio. The interplay between Barkan and Milstein sounds natural and responsive, charging the music with a lighter, more open tone.
Like Israeli pianist Anat Fort's A Long Story (ECM, 2007), Barkan references Middle Eastern-tinged melodies including "Orr (Hebrew for "Light ), where Barkan and Milstein play touch-and-go with an elusive theme. "The Bull and the Lamb is more joyful, a dedication to Barkan's friend and collaborator, Israeli guitarist Issi Rozen, while the closing piece, "Coming Home, is more heartfelt.
Milstein's clear and beautiful lines shine on "For Sergio," where he fuses organically with Barkan and Lockwood's assured and articulate playing. "Song for Rachel" begins as a refined lyrical lament for past loves, but Milstein and Barkan ultimately color it with an optimistic groove that feature the quartet at its tightest.
Live Sessions suggests Barkan as a thoughtful, economical musician. An adventurous and emotional artist, it also relays his commitment and mature musical personality.
Personnel: Gilad Barkan: piano; Dan Greenspan: bass (CD1); ; John Lockwood: bass (CD2); Harvey Wirht: drums; Amir Milstein: flute (CD2).