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Gilad Barkan: Modulation (2003)

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Gilad Barkan: Modulation No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Consider the gazillion jazz piano trio recordings available to the unsuspecting public and the time and effort it takes to breakthrough as a major pianist/composer. My first listen to the debut recording by this Bostonian (by way of Israel) made me think very much of the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio per the intensity and interaction of the three players. So, my first impression was dazzlement by the playing and compositions of Barkan and Company.

I crept up to my changer for a second, more objective, analysis. Barkan wrote all but four of the eleven tunes here, and what's even more impressive is that the four well-chosen standards/jazz standards are at the same level as his own compositions. This is neither minimalist, commercial, nor avant-garde piano jazz. While the respective melodies are attractive lines, the performances demand your attention. The opening tune, "Paul's Groove," is typical, with a swinging trio presentation. It's easy to become mesmerized by Barkan's technique and his interaction with Dan Greenspan's bass and Harvey Wirht's drums. Other noteworthy tunes include "Amaravati Davi is Getting Married" (which refers to his mother), the lilting "Brazilian Suite #2" and the closing ballad "This is Love."

In choosing two modern jazz standards — Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" and Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby" — Barkan doesn't so much channel either of these two modal piano giants as offer fresh and articulate versions of their compositions. "All My Tomorrows," the Sinatra classic written by Jimmy Van Heusen for the film The Joker is Wild, also shows Barkan's sensitivity for the Great American Songbook. Juan Tizol's "Caravan" would not normally seem to belong in this collection. However, Barkan takes the old warhorse out for a polyrhythmic ride in spirited conversations with Greenspan and Wirht.

Based upon first and second impressions, I'm placing this recording amongst some pretty significant trio recordings, like the early Bill Evans Trio, early '60s Denny Zeitlin, and perhaps the emergence of Brad Mehldau in the last decade. Gilad Barkan is also a member of the Boston-based Issi Rozen Quartet and that Wirht is the drummer for the Either/Orchestra, a long-standing musical aggregation.

'Scuse me while I play this one again!

Track Listing: Paul's Groove, Brazilian Suite #2, Modulation, All My Tomorrows, Affection, Amaravati Devi is Getting Married, Dolphin Dance, Waltz for Debbvy, Carnaval, Caravan, This is Love.

Personnel: Gilad Barkan, piano; Dan Greenspan, bass; Harvey Wirht, drums.

Record Label: New Step Music

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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