, pianist-composer Ari Erev and his players pour fresh energies into the bounty of sounds that sweeten our world. They do so in accord with the principles of personal expression, collaborative sensitivity and creative sophistication that characterizes jazz in all its gloriously open forms. A century since this music's birth, through decades that have witnessed its myriad stylistic developments and global sweep, it's no surprise anymore but simply a pleasure to hear masterful musicians from everywhere---Israel includedbring life to original works influenced by Brazilian and Afro-Cuban basics, classical repertoire or staples of the American songbook. Jazz advances freely, as Erev and company show.
In fact, part of the motivation for both this leader and his colleagues to carry on their artistic mission is a faith shared by jazz musicians and fans worldwide that the music is so fundamentally and immediately comprehensible as to be universally affective. I believe, too, that people across geographic, ethnic, religious and other presumed divides will recognize, whatever their backgrounds, that the music here is joyous, warm, peaceful, harmonious, cooperative, imaginative, true and bluesy, easy to listen to and easy to love. Flow
is Erev's third album, following his quartet outing A Handful of Changes
and his debut with a trio About Time
. In it, he introduces a set of songs that expand on his taste for lyricism with a Latin (or more properly, Hispanic) accent. Impressed at the start of his career by the virtuosic Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba
, who he heard on bassist Charlie Haden
's bolero-tinged records Nocturno
and Land of the Sun
, Erev has made a study of keyboardists such as Chick Corea
, Michel Camilo
, Chucho Valdes
and Chano Dominguez
who draw upon Spanish, Caribbean, Mexican and South American musical legacies. Like his models, Erev often underscores his themes with the rhythms of Africa that were conveyed, assimilated and adapted across the Atlantic Ocean as early as the 18th century, and 200 years later embraced globally.
This strategy requires skilled instrumentalists and in return successful realization spotlights their talents. Having established himself in clubs, concert series and festivals throughout Israel and Europe, Erev has been able to gather similarly accomplished local stars. Drummer Ron Almog
, best known for his prominent role in the Avi Lebovich Orchestra, and percussionist Gilad Dobrecky
(on four tunes) deftly collude with veteran bassist Eli Magen
to support the pianist's shapely writing and gentle but firm keyboard touch. Soprano saxophonist Yuval Cohen
(of The Three Cohens, featuring his brother Avishai on trumpet and sister Anat on tenor sax and clarinet) joins the group for five tracks, richly enhancing them. The result is an album of more than an hour that soothes and stimulates in balanced measure.
"I prefer to leave these songs mostly unexplained," Erev says, "so that the listeners will come up with meanings and interpretations." But it will not hamper audiences' speculations, much less their enjoyment, to reveal that Flow
's opener "Jump in the Water" was the last piece the pianist composed for this album. It came to him very quickly one evening as a melody conveying the concept of taking a bold move "from which there is no way back." As Ari notes, "Once you jump, you can't regret it. . . "
In contrast, "Flow" itself was the first song Erev penned for this project, a waltz that proceeds with his piano solo's phrases rising and dipping as if buoyed by waves. "Playful Moments" is just that, as Cohen's voice-like horn floats upon a samba beat. Perhaps a hint of "saudade," the Brazilian mood of nostalgic sadness, seeps into the song.
"July, Again" is Erev's tribute to his deceased friend and bassist Udi Kazmirski. The two first gigged together on a July day some time ago, and Kazmirski died in July (in 2012), hence the title. "Treasures in Havana" is the composer-pianist's allusion to spiritual, rather than material, assets. It comes from his memories of a family visit to Cuba and the transcendent experiences, especially of music, he had there.
"Inner Story" melds two contrasting lines, and provides a special opportunity to appreciate Eli Magen's subtle, substantive touch. "What the Heart Sees" is Erev's response to an assertion from Antoine de St.-Exupery's fable The Little Prince stating, "What is Essential is invisible to the eye." Might what's essential be clearer to the ear? It would seem so, as Erev, Cohen, Megan and Almog avoid superfluous embellishment, sketching soulfulness with a distinctive line at a luxuriously moderate pace. And so Flow
continues, with "Continuance" touching on the imperative to carry on; "Domingo," by Brazilian pianist-composer Debora Gurgel, which Erev discovered through Facebook and spent all of a Saturday learning to play; the self-explanatory "Latin Currents" and, concluding, American pianist-composer Fred Hersch's "Endless Stars."
Erev is right to suggest these tracks need no explanation. Your own attentions and reactions to the musicians' nuanced interplay, evocations of intimacy, thoughtfulness and sensitivity will tell you all you need to know. Somehow we get the impression that this music is being created in the moment, just for us, Says the pianist-composer, "Flow is the state of mind during which one is immersed in a continuous act of doing something such as learning or creating usually with great enjoyment and complete focus, without even noticing the passage of time. It is as if the perception of reality is blurred by the unconscious." Uniting conscious and unconscious for we listeners and themselves, too, Ari Erev and his ensemble Flow
as they go.
Liner Notes copyright © 2023 Howard Mandel.
Flow can be purchased here.
Contact Howard Mandel at All About Jazz.
Howard is a Chicago-born writer, editor, author, arts reporter for National Public Radio, consultant and videographer. Visit Howard at howardmandel.com.
Jumping in the Water; Flow; Playful Moments; July, Again; Treasures in Havana; Inner Story; What the Heart Sees; Continuance; Domingo; Latin Currents; Gan Ha-Shikmim; Endless Stars.