There is an age-old Jewish blessing that goes, "May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate." Considering each bud contains exactly 613 arilsand as many reward possibilitiesthe saying illustrates the atmosphere of generosity and plenitude surrounding Tishrey celebrations.
Singer/composer Ayelet Rose Gottlieb not only loves her pomegranates, but her perky musical persona proves to be somehow analogous to the fruit's astringent, bittersweet taste. At times moderately mischievous and wily, at others more philosophical and tender, Gottlieb indeed cultivates a joie de vivre that encompasses all her work. Already her third effort as a leader, Upto Here From Here sees the jocund vocalist biting into life as one bites into, well, pomegranates.
That said, as quirky and charismatic as she appears initially, the album eventually reveals a darker effect: a feeling which may be likened to that of a comedy/drama. This duality comes counterbalancing the somewhat histrionic juvenility the singer occasionally indulges herself intoand not without a degree of success.
An audacious, overly personal program blending love songs, philosophical commentaries on the nature of life, and tributes to both her grandmother and "pomegranate man," the dichotomy between extroverted and profound matters (though sweetened by the accompanists' affable interjections) appears greater because of the lack of genuine storytelling.
For example, in those rare instances where a story presides over snapshot-like momentssuch as in "Letter," in which she cleverly uses long glissandi to mimic the narrator's exasperated sights over the yearning of her lover's returnGottlieb puts the mockers on the emotionally gripping vibe with "Life Is A Structure That Is (Accept It!)," a monotonous, formless melody and lyric.
Similarly, while her rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You" instills a soothing momentum begging for a crescendo, the cozy, candlelit setting is interrupted with the band venturing into diametrical vistas. "Venezia" is arguably the worst mood killer, with an eerie montage of song and nursery rhyme wrapped in a festive, klezmer-tinged arrangement.
A gleeful quip with plenty of giggles and snickering toy whistlesall supposed to capture the funny sensations felt when Cupid strikes his bow"Hidden Forbidden" is one piece whose deriding arrangement fits both the interpreter's personality and the subject matter. It is one of the album's highlights along with the above-mentioned "Letter."
Diaspora jazz or musical biopic, like its instigator, Upto Here From Here defies categorization. As for it garnering its leader any of the 613 rewards, only time will tell.
Track Listing: Pomegranate Man; Life Is A Structure That Is (Accept It!); The Most Alive Moment; Wrong Rain (bird thoughts); Letter; Sweep Streets; Upto Here From Here; The Nearness Of You; Some Kiss; Hidden Forbidden; And In The End; Venezia.
Personnel: Ayelet Rose Gottlieb: voice, balloon; Loren Stillman: saxophones; Avishai Cohen: trumpet, whistle; Ed Schuller: bass; Take Toriyama: drums, percussions, toys; Anat Fort: piano; Venezia Mizrahi: spoken voice.