Marty Ehrlich Trio in Tel Aviv

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The contrast between Beger's emotional urgency and Ehrich's reserved, economic articulation...sparked the two pieces they played together.
Marty Ehrlich Trio
New Opera House
Tel Aviv, Israel
Friday, January, 19, 2007

The first performance in Israel of New York-based composer and reed player Marty Ehrlich offered a concise overview of the career of the gifted player. Ehrlich presented his new trio—Shanir Ezra Blumenkrantz on bass and oud along with drummer Mark Fereber—and hosted Israeli saxophonist Albert Beger in the second half of the concert.

Ehrlich opened the concert with two pieces from his last quartet release Line on Love (Palmetto, 2003), the title tune and "Like I Said," which were representative of the wise and careful architecture of Ehrlich's pieces and his rich and nuanced tone. The first piece was done in the spirit of Ehrlich's Dark Wood Ensemble, with the focus on Blumenkrantz' arco playing on bass; on the second number, Ehrlich's short phrases on the alto sax added a Caribbean aroma to the original recorded performance of the piece.

The next piece was Ehrlich's first indirect reference to his Jewish roots: an adaptation of Bob Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell," from his Radical Jewish Culture release on Tzadik Sojourn (1999), done with Blumenkarantz on the oud and Ehrlich leading on the clarinet. Blumenkrantz' elemental playing repeated the simple chord changes of Dylan's song but unlike Marc Ribot, who played on the recorded version of the song, did not offer any new insights.

The last piece in this set was taken from Song (Enja, 2001), "The Price of the Ticket," and was dedicated to writer James Baldwin. A collage of themes from spirituals and folk songs, the piece was the first vehicle on which the trio's playing really took off. The dense textures of Ehrlich's sax, the Elvin Jones-like playing of Ferber and the inventiveness of Blumenkrantz on the bass gelled into a unified entity, just like another great sax trio—that of the late Thomas Chapin—but in a more restrained manner.

Ehrlich opened the second half with a slow and beautiful piece, "Eloi Lament," originally from his Relativity session (Enja, 1999), which featured him on the flute. And then Ehrlich invited Beger to the stage. The contrast between Beger's emotional urgency and Ehrich's reserved, economic articulation, and the contemplative yet adventurous approach of both players, sparked the two pieces they played together. Their meditative dialogue on "Solace," originally from Line on Love, with Beger on the alto-flute and Ehrlich on the bass clarinet, and their fiery collision on Ehrlich's new and unnamed piece, with Beger on the tenor sax and Ehrlich on the alto sax, were the climax of the concert.

After this intense performance, Ehrlich calmed down with a bluesy version of a Jewish standard, "Eliahu" (again from Sojourn), which is part of the Passover ceremony, as Ferber added Middle- Eastern rhythms on the darbouka. The last piece was a playful one highlighting once more the inventive playing of Blumenkrantz. Finally, a short encore featuring Ehrlich playing on two recorders simultaneously did not come close to re-creating the emotional storm the same artist had summoned forth with Beger's help.

Photo Credit: Kabilio

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