Assaf Kehati Quartet: Finding Its Own Voice

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Israeli guitarist Assaf Kehati, Boston-based since 2007, is a regular in drummer Billy Hart's outfits. His melodic compositions are, he says, inspired by the details of daily life. He cites as influences composers who have blurred the distinctions between folk/pop and more sophisticated music—Hector Berlioz, George Gershwin, guitarist Pat Metheny, Sting and even country singer Kenny Rogers. On both of his self-produced releases he is backed by young Israeli players—Alon Farber on sax, Daniel Sapir on bass and Udi Shlomo on drums.

Assaf Kehati Quartet

A View From My Window



Kehati's compositions tend to have a conventional structure, with an easily recognizable theme that he keeps developing, usually with Farber, while Sapir and Shlomo hold the rhythm tightly together. Kehati's quartet sounds not unlike the first Pat Metheny Group—with saxophone replacing keyboards—but without PMG's raw energy or Metheny's subsequently revealed debt to saxophonist Ornette Coleman and guitarist Derek Bailey.

Kehati follows Metheny's melodic and gentle side, and the pastoral urbanism of guitarists Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell, in his thoughtful, linear phrasing and patient exposition of the melody. These qualities imbue the clean, open-toned compositions "Todidodo" and "Passover" and the slow ballads "Reflections" and "A View From My Window." "Quit Now" is more challenging, as Farber leads the quartet into dense bebop interplay that adds power and energy and enables Kehati to improvise beautifully on the complex chord changes. The playful "Sunshine Berale," inspired by the mundane life of a snail, best summarizes Kehati's compositional essence—cinematic, clear and highly melodic. However, as a guitarist and composer he still owes too much to Metheny and has yet to find his own voice.

Assaf Kehati Quartet Assaf Kehati Quartet

Flowers and Other Stories



Kehati's sophomore release is a different story. The compositions are still highly melodic, but are more open. The quartet has gained confidence, found the independent voice of a real working group, and takes more chances. The interplay is much more collaborative and more is heard from Sapir and Shlomo, well evidenced on the opening track, "Calling Me Home."

"Mr. Mario" marks a clear departure from the Metheny musical world through a rhythmic interplay that highlights the important role played by Sapir. A 12-minute suite, the mysterious "The Most Beautiful Flower," and the shorter "Don't Attack" and "Invisible Green," feature patient and thoughtful development of the compositions through collective interplay. On these tunes, the quartet does not attempt to follow a linear structure, with Kehati allowing the players to follow their own instincts and challenge the others through careful tension-building and release.

Based on the mature playing on this second disc, more can be looked forward to from this promising quartet.

Tracks and Personnel

A View From My Window

Tracks: Todidodo; Passover; Quit Now; Reflections; Sunshine Berale; A View From My Window.

Personnel: Assaf Kehati: guitar; Alon Farber: sax; Daniel Sapir: bass; Udi Shlomo: drums.

Flowers and Other Stories

Tracks: Calling Me Home; Mr. Mario; Tali; The Most Beautiful Flower; The Snow and the Sun; Don't Attack; Invisible Green.

Personnel: Assaf Kehati: guitar; Alon Farber: sax; Daniel Sapir: bass; Udi Shlomo: drums.

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