Dan Aran's Breathing arrived with a short, dour note from Luke Kaven, head of Smalls Records, on the shaky future of indie-label jazz. That's not news and yet Breathing underscores the stakes involved for artists whose work is too fine to go undocumented. Aran, an Israeli-born drummer, is such an artist.
Breathing is very much a jazz record but not a straightforward band date. There are many musicians on the roster, some playing only small roles, although Aran relies on top-tier pianist Art Hirahara to anchor every track except one. Bassists Matt Brewer and Tal Ronen handle five tunes each. Trumpeter Avishai Cohen, saxophonist Eli Degibri and trombonist Jonathan Voltzok all make substantial contributions. Degibri plays gruff tenor on Arnie Lawrence's mid-tempo "I'm So Blue," and takes up soprano for Aran's "Riva," a Ornette Coleman's "The Blessing" is a burst of lucidity, the album's improvisational centerpiece.
But it's the subtle textures and tone colorsNir Felder's mix of acoustic slide and fuzz tone guitar on the rubato second half of the ballad "Sun Bath"; Gili Sharett's lonely bassoon on the melody of Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You"; Brewer's 5/4 bass feature on "Tenderly"that give Breathing its radiance, its flavor of surprise. Aran's writing, too, is disarmingly pretty, pure in melodic focus. He opens smartly with "Sun Bath" and the evocative tone poem "Shnozel" and closes with "Yemini Pne," a loping, unorthodox two-chord vamp that gives way to a brighter sequence in 3/4, framed by a joyous staccato line and dueling solos from the brass.
The one big departurean explicit nod to Aran's ethnic heritageis "Gul Lihibib," Aharon Amram's hypnotic 7/8 theme, involving cameos by flutist Itai Kriss, trumpeter Ben Holmes and pianist/accordionist Uri Sharlin. The Middle Eastern vibe is fleeting, however. Aran's work is steeped first and foremost in straight-ahead jazz and yet the forms and contours are every bit his own.
Sun Bath; Shnozel; I'm So Blue; Riva; Para Ezequiel; The Blessing; I Concentrate on You; Tenderly; Gul Lihibib; Yemini Pne.
Dan Aran: percussion, drums; Avishai Cohen: trumpet; Eli Degibri: tenor sax, soprano sax; Jonathan Voltzok: trombone; Itai Kriss: flute;
Nir Felder: electric guitar; Ben Holmes: trumpet; Art Hirahara: piano;
Uri Sharlin: piano, accordion; Tal Ronen: bass; Matt Brewer: bass;
Gili Sharett: bassoon.
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