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In a live 1996 session at Smalls in New York, Omer Avital leads this stellar sextet through a program of six originals and one standard. Nothing is standard, however, about the way this double bassist interprets modern jazz.
A "young lion on the New York jazz scene, Avital was born in Israel. He studied classical guitar at the Givataim Conservatory and switched to acoustic bass at Talma Yalin, Israel's leading high school for the arts. In his early twenties, he was on hand when Smalls opened, and he became a regular fixture there through the late '90s. Today, he teaches at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem and continues to nurture the growth of jazz worldwide.
Avital's arrangements include extensive soloing as well as ensemble counterpoint, running for over twelve minutes on average. It's the benefit of a live club performance: everybody gets pumped up and allows the music to run. Hornmen Charles Owens, Gregory Tardy, Mark Turner and Myron Walden each turn in impressive solos. Avital and drummer Ali Jackson take their share of solo spots, but they maintain a low-key appearance that relegates much of what they do to the sextet's rhythmic foundation.
The program runs loose and relaxed. Tension and release play appropriate roles; however, the saxophones perform together for the most part in scripted action that eschews spontaneity. Avital has captured an exotic sound: lush, like Ellington's saxophone section, and bass-dominant, like Mingus's dynamic ensembles. Orchestral colors ebb and flow, giving the performance an accessible texture. Avital's cohesive unit takes modern jazz for an enjoyably sweet, lovely, and lyrical ride.
Track Listing: Know What I Mean?; Lullaby of the Leaves; Ballad; Devil Head; 12 Tribes; Kentucky Girl; The Field.
Personnel: Omer Avital: bass; Ali Jackson: drums; Myron Walden: alto saxophone; Charles Owens, Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Gregory Tardy: tenor saxophone, flute.