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Daniel Meron Quartet: New York, NY, Saturday May 4, 2013

Daniel Lehner By

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Daniel Meron Quartet
Metropolitan Room
New York, NY
May 4, 2013

After debuting his first album, Directions, when first moving to New York from Berklee in 2010, Israeli-born pianist Daniel Meron has moved on to new avenues relatively quickly. One of these is focusing on more song-based material (complete with lyrics), which has regained popularity in the jazz world, though it is still a unique challenge. Meron and his quartet, consisting of vocalist Maia Karo, drummer Rodrigo Recabarren and bassist Haggai Cohen Milo, exhibited Meron's material in a elegant and intriguing way at midtown Manhattan's Metropolitan Room.

Meron's music and its execution for quartet has a folkloric quality—though, for the pianist, his compositions apply to all senses of that word. The opening "The Wait" drew from both contemporary 20th century American folk music as well as a healthy dose of Medieval/Renaissance hymnal counterpoint. Various forms of classical music found their way into a number of his tunes, such as a hybrid of Bach arpeggiation, Impressionist harmony and the so-called "Baroque pop" stylings found in "Let Him In."

The song stylings are very dependent on Karo, who deftly and beautifully navigated Meron's gentle but often tricky voice parts. "Sleepless Nights" had her moving in tandem with bass and piano and recalled a touch of Luciana Souza's approach to Brazilian music. "Best Enemy" had Karo and Meron in a more traditional, rubato piano/voice duo, with Karo thoughtfully melodizing above Meron's restlessness, before matching the group's energy when the power was turned up, the group approaching a sort of a Art Blakey-esque approach to pop music.

Instrumentally, the group was in fine form. As a pianist, Meron demonstrated his virtuosity without losing the material's beauty or getting lost in the energy. He also showed a expansive view of his instrument; creating an intriguing, abstract intro to the group's cover of Skunk Anansie's "Secretly," he employed sparse constructions of chords, left-hand bass and dissonant upper register twinkles. Milo showcased his unhurried, lyrical touch throughout, bringing as much even-tempred logic in his improvisations as his bass parts, while Recabarren had his moment to shine in "Fish in the Air," setting up a vivacious Afrobeat intro, piece by piece, and later flourishing into an irregularly energetic but completely controlled solo by the song's end. Meron's music proved to fit nicely within the recent surge of song oriented modern jazz (a la Gretchen Parlato, Becca Stevens and Theo Bleckmann) but will certainly promise to carve its own path entirely.

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