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Assif Tashar and Hamid Drake with Zohar Fresco in Tel Aviv

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Assif Tsahar and Hamid Drake with Zohar Fresco
Levontin 7, Tel Aviv
March 13, 2007, First Set

Israeli reed player Assif Tsahar and Chicago-based and globetrotter drummer Hamid Drake consider themselves as soul bodies, as is apparent by the sub-title of their recently released second duet, Live at Glenn Miller Café: Soul Bodies, Vol. 2 (Ayler, 2006). Tons of joyful spirit that derived from this brotherly feeling abounded while Tsahar hosted Drake in his home-base club, Levontin 7, before a surprisingly packed and enthusiastic house, in a short 24-hour break in Drake's busy schedule, just after his concert with the William Parker Quartet and before another one with Anthony Braxton and Parker.

Tsahar and Drake began the first number with a long but exemplary praxis of free jazz. The pair have developed an almost telepathic rapport, sensing each other's moves and complementing each other's solo turns, as was evident throughout this piece. Tsahar demonstrated an assured tone on the tenor sax, and his steady flow of ideas and themes were responded to immediately by the non-stop propulsive grooves of Drake. The two even enjoyed exploring themes that sounded rooted in rhythm 'n' blues, funk and the soul jazz vocabulary of Gene Ammons, with some nods towards Sonny Rollins' neo-bop . Tsahar and Drake chose not stick to any groove or idea, however, but to take full advantage of the interplay and playfulness between them and to move freely back and forth between the themes of their materials.

After this athletic piece Tsahar invited to the stage Israeli master percussionist Zohar Fresco for what was supposed to be a "healing session," since Fresco was involved in a car accident on his way to the concert. Fresco specializes in combining sophisticated ethnic-based scales with a unique and personal vocabulary on the frame drums and darboukas, and he has collaborated and performed with leading Israeli world music ensembles and singers such as Bustan Abraham, Noa and David Broza, and noted percussionists such as Zakir Hussain, Glen Velez, Arto Tunçboyaciyan.

Fresco and Drake began this set singing, the former chanting a wordless prayer while Drake, chanting in Arabic and Hebrew, offered an invocation to all gods, prophets and humanity to reciprocate with "peace, love and perfection." Soon Fresco held a frame drum, and Drake began to play the djembe. The pair developed such an immediate rapport that Tsahar seemed to enjoy seeing the two collaborating, content from time to time to inject a short line on bass clarinet. Fresco and Drake exchanged scales, challenging each other, but this time Fresco met a master drummer who, while mutating and playing with Fresco's ideas sufficiently to throw him off-balance, always managed to support him, pushing him forward to an inspirational performance—one that could not help but heal all his pains.

On the third piece Tsahar led the two percussionists on another muscular ride, as Drake and Fresco's percolating polyrhythms supported Tsahar whose tenor sax cries kept soaring. The audience demanded an encore, and Tsahar began with a circular, short solo piece on the tenor sax but soon signaled to Drake and Fresco to join him for interplay among the three, a musical conversation that culminated with Fresco challenging Tashar and Drake to respond to the Middle-Eastern scales that he produced on his darbouka. Fresco soon joined Tsahar and Drake, mirroring their Ornette Coleman-like serpentine lines, which concluded this lighthearted piece.

Hamid Drake at All About Jazz.

Photo: Scott Friedlander

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