Deep Throat: New Voices From Israel
Israel's small jazz and improvised music community includes a high proportion of scholars from the country's music academies. They study jazz and improvisation as part of the curriculum, but have access to few off-campus venues where they can experience the music live, either as audience members or as musicians.
The upside is that the absence of a thriving tour circuit encourages, if not actually obliges, Israeli musicians to offer fresh and individual takes on the music, unencumbered by tradition or a steady diet of visiting elder statesmen from overseas.
Dvir Katz, leader of the Chameleon Trio, and Nori Jacoby are good examples of young Israeli musicians doing their own thingKatz with a distinctive take on new music, and Jacoby with a Mongolian throat singing-infused, ambitious multi-culturalism.
The Jerusalem-based Chameleon Trio feature two graduates of the city's Rubin Academy of Musiccomposer and flautist Dvir Katz and clarinetist Nitai Levi. The third member is the more widely experienced bassist, Ora Boasson-Horev, a close musical partner of the Israeli pianist and composer, Yitzhak Yedid.
Katz's compositions attempt to bridge the work of contemporary composers like György Ligeti and Edgar Varez, progressive rock influences such as King Crimson and Frank Zappa, classical orchestral works, and jazz stylists like Thelonious Monk, Eric Dolphy and Louis Sclavis. In Between leans more towards the new music pole, but offers many adventurous and enjoyable improvised passages.
Katz is a very talented storyteller who knows how to assemble drama, humor, sorrow, joy and optimism into thoughtful compositions. His work is well structured, but offers plenty of personal space to all three musicians. Katz's musical references here include the chamber music projects of Sclavis and the Arcado String Trio. But the focal point of the trio is Boasson-Horev, who always dares to push the music onward, challenging herself and her colleagues.
Boasson-Horev has her own dark and full-toned sound, and she always plays as if she's ready for new experiences. Whenever she takes the lead, the music soars. Katz and Levi are much more cerebral and restrained, as if unwilling to tarnish their clear, pure sound with more gritty, temperamental playing.
The most memorable track here is the 20-minute elegy "Why?." The composition defines the trio's approachclose, considerate, group interaction that periodically dissolves and deconstructs into solo passages that color the collective playing. A very impressive debut.
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The components of this short (19 minutes), three-part composition sound like the recipe for a nervous breakdown. There's a mysterious biblical text that deals with heavenly and earthly love in ancient Jerusalem. Then there are three vocal artists, one an Israeli who draws her inspiration from Jewish culture, the other two overtone singing masters from other culturesDangaa Khosobayar, from Mongolia, one of the greatest performers today of the Khoomei overtone singing style, and Wolfgang Saus, from Germany, a master of different traditions of overtone singing. There's also a German oud player and the swinging, all-female Israeli Contemporary String Quartet.
But there's no breakdown, nervous or otherwise. Jacoby manages to weave all these elements into a complex and moving composition that successfully blends seemingly alien components into a single, cohesive musical construct.
The composition offers a pocketful of surprises though. Vocalist Victoria Hanna's beautiful tune for the biblical verses, the way that she plays with the ancient text and her delicate and sinuous vocals; the perfect harmonies that Hanna forms with the overtones of Khosobayar and Saus; the overtones that the string quartet produce with their sustained strumming during the second part; the gentle oud playing that stresses that this composition bridges east and west, ancient then with modern now; and the energetic, festive third part, that combines a Mongolian love song with a ceremonial biblical text .
During the final section, the music becomes so intense and wild that it actually sounds like it's swinging, until the dreamy closing tones that follow the lover trying to escape King Solomon's wedding festivities. Outstanding.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Yeladudes; Greedy; Why?; Optimisim?; Moods
Personnel: Dvir Katz: flute; Nitai Levi: clarinet, bass clarinet; Ora Boasson-Horev: bass.
Tracks: The Guards Of The City; Perfumed With Myrrh; King Solomon's Chariot.
Personnel: Victoria Hanna: voice; Dangaa Khosobayar: throat singing, overtone singing; Wolfgang Saus: singing, overtone singing; Michael Wolpe: conductor; Gerhard Fankhauser: oud, singing; Itamar Nativ and Matti Kolver- choral singing; Israeli Contemporary String Quartet: Hadas Fabricant: first violin; Tali Goldberg: second violin; Katia Polin: viola; Hilla Epstein: cello.