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Young Israeli alto and soprano saxophonist Tal Gur's debut features him leading a quartet comprised of fellow young Israeli players: drummer Ariel Armoni, who collaborated recently with Israeli pianist Daniel Sarid on TR (Levontin 7, 2007); guitarist Ido Bukelman, who is a member of Israeli jazz quartet The Rats, and bassist Ehud Ettun. Classically trained, Gur performs and records jazz, rock, Hassidic and Balkan music, in addition to studying sound engineering. For Air Portrait, Gur composed all six tracks.
The sound of Gur's saxophones indeed captures the attention, but can be annoying. After the brief electronic introduction of "Buds of Cyclamens," "Detours" finds Gur riding above the fusion guitar lines of Bukelman, who sounds as if he adopted the 1980s ECM-era sound of Bill Frisell, with a sweet and light sound that never gathers substantial volume or power. "Cyclamens" retains the same atmosphere, but leaves enough room for the inventive Armoni and Ettun to explore more interesting sonic detours over the reserved fretting of Bukelman. Gur joins in on the last third only, gently emphasizing the melodic theme of this cinematic composition.
Gur begins "Sholem" with a soft vibrating tone, letting Bukelman to take the lead for another impressionistic solo before both begin digging deeper and searching for more challenging interplay, but this attempt remains a brief one. Than, when it appears that this quartet will never break out of its subdued comfort zone, it surprises you with a tight and mean fusion piece, "Whirlpool," that demonstrates some muscle and an angry sound. Bukelman adds some distortion to his guitar and abandons the Frisell-ian texture, while Gur pushes deeper for a more varied and nuanced sound with solid support from Ettun and Armoni. The last piece, "Silent High Tide," sounds like a compromise between the earlier impressionistic tracks that fails to linger in the memory, and a more meaningful sound exploration in the vein of "Whirlpool."
Track Listing: Buds of Cyclamens; Detours; Cyclamens; Sholem; Whirlpool; Silent High Tide.