Alon Yavnai: Travel Notes (2008)
Three people are making a musical journey. This is Travel Notes by the Israeli pianist Alon Yavnai and his trio consisting of Omer Avital on bass and oud and percussionist Jamey Haddad. Together, they weave a rich tapestry of melodic sounds like a pencil drawing on an ancient piece of paper.
The music is old and new, timely and timeless. While belonging to a lyrical line of pianists starting with Bill Evans, Alon Yavnai has his very own sound; a sound that has much to do with his acknowledging of his Eastern heritage in his music. This is also evident in the song titles, which carry beautiful, exotic names like "Shir Ahava Tari," "Ilha B'nit" and "Zricha."
What arises, then, is a form of lyric strangeness that can be compared to hearing a foreign language without understanding the meaning but still being able to get a sense of the grammar. The grammar of jazz is enchanted by this wonderful trio, which has its very own language.
An example of the form of musical enchantment could be the ballad "Shir Ahava Tari" that shimmers with harmonic possibilities, retaining a balance between Eastern music, classical and jazz. Music played ever so softly, like hands touching a lover.
"Ilha B'nit" finds the group in elegant interplay with bouncing bass lines from Avital and Haddad's atmospheric, rattling percussion. The tune is an example of one of the more upbeat moments of the album, but overall Travel Notes has a quality of tranquility about it. Every note is given its due and all the richer for it.
The reason why the music never falls into the pit of aimless meandering is the strong framework that Yavnais's compositions provide for the players' musical ideas. In the end the trio achieves the rare balance between open-ended exploration and unifying structure.
This is ideally how travelling should be: a road where one is always curious to learn more and win new territory while still keeping a sense of purpose. Travel Notes are notes in the double sense of the word. The music has the quality of being written down in the moment and yet it has the enigmatic quality that the French novelist Marcel Proust identified as the melancholy of capturing a memory that is forever losteven though it is relived in the very moment of its recollection.
Track Listing: Bayit; Yonatan; Yoman; Numi Numi; Travel Notes; Shir Ahava Tari; Ilha B'nit; Yakinton; Zricha; Sof.
Personnel: Alon Yavnai: piano; Omer Avital: bass, oud; Jamey Haddad: percussion.
Record Label: ObliqSound