Sunny Murray, Assif Tsahar & Shmil Frenkel at Levontin 7, Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv, Israel
June 11, 2007
Israeli saxophonist Assif Tsahar could have not find a better way to celebrate his birthday: a concert with one of the forefathers of free and modern jazz, American and Paris-based drummer Sunny Murray, with whom he recorded the beautiful Live at the Fundacio Juan Miro (Hopscotch Records, 2003) with the late bassist Peter Kowald, months before his premature death. The small underground hall of Levontin 7 with its familiar and appreciative audience provided a perfect atmosphere for such a great concert.
Murray, 71, is not as powerful a player as he was almost forty years ago when he played with Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler, but he is still one of the most original artists. He is gifted with a perfect, intuitive conception of rhythm that resonates a with a light swing groove while insuating a much broader space-time continuum with an internal logic of its own. Always smiling, never taking off his sun-glasses, and perpetually singing his own song, Murray demonstrated in the opening take-no-prisoners sonic assault his idiosyncratic playing. Aggressive and intense, he pushes the envelope but at the same time interlocks with his partners by indirectly referencing the structured rhythmic models of the be-bop legacy. The soaring solo-sax flights of Tsahar and the busy, all-over-the-bass playing of Frenkel served as striking complements to the energetic eruptions of Murray.
The second improvisation was even better. Murray, with mallets this time. began with a ethereal tribal rhythm that offered Tsahar, on the bass clarinet, a perfect platform for his imaginative, gentle and emotional playing. Frenkel, a last-minute substitute for Dutch bassist Wilbert de Joode, contributed delicate arco solos, and Murray led the trio into beautifully reserved and circular playing, culminating with all three musicians exchanging inspired solos. Frenkel chose to play less densely on this piece, and his personal rhythmic conception contrasted with Murray's playing while adding more colors to the rich palette of sounds that all three players brought to this improvisation.
Tsahar led the third improvisation, a slow blues, which was the emotional climax of this exciting set. Murray provided Tsahar with a steady rhythm but kept seasoning it with subtle touches and twists that added an edge of suspense and surprise; Frenkel, meanwhile, focused on expanding the free rhythmic basis that he along with Murray offered for the assured solos of Tsahar. This set ended after 45 minutes, at which point the three musicians returned for an encore which, while not replicating the magical momentum of the first set, still offered yet another example of the joyful and close affinity shared by these excellent and original musicians.