Multi-reedist Oran Etkin's first albumKelenia (Motema Music, 2009)fused Malian sounds and Jewish music with jazz. Its follow-upWake Up, Clarinet! (1-2-3-4 Go, 2010)was geared toward kids. Now, for round three, Etkin has cast his net over a huge portion of the globe, pulling together, arranging, and morphing musical ideals he's encountered while touring through Asia, Israel, and portions of Europe.
Gathering Light is a gloriously global musical mélange that finds Etkin in good company, creating alternately gripping and grooving performances with the help of some of the most distinct personalities on the scene today. Ubiquitous guitarist Lionel Loueke, fluid-and-fierce drummer Nasheet Waits, stalwart bassist Ben Allison, and underrated-and-adventurous trombonist Curtis Fowlkes make for a compelling mix, burrowing deep into these pieces.
Etkin visits heady Indonesian settings built on the idea of marrying heart and voice ("Gambang Suling"), shines a light on the plaintive and beautiful aspects of Israeli music ("Shirim Ad Kan"), and infuses Japanese music with a distinctly American blues aesthetic ("Takeda (Homesick Blues)"). He even revels in the exploration of outré environs ("Tony's Dance") and blends Yiddish overtones and mournful New Orleans undertones ("Der Gasn Nign (Street Song)").
Etkin's bass clarinet work, which deserves the "beyond category" distinction, remains his calling card, but he also makes a case for his clarinet and tenor saxophone in a few places on this one; the former often comes off as chipper and bright ("Taxi Dance" and "Guangzhou Taxi"), and the latter speaks in measured and cryptic phrases ("Scattering Light" and "Distant Sounds Of Change").
Gathering Light is firm evidence that the world is Etkin's oyster, palette, and muse. This is global jazz done the right way.
Gambang Suling; Taxi Dance; Shirim Ad Kan; Gratitude; Takeda (Homesick Blues); All I Really Want To Do Is Dance; Scattering Light; Tony's Dance; Der Gasn Nign (Street Song); Distant Sounds Of Change; Guangzhou Taxi; When It's Sleepy Time Down South.
Oran Etkin: bass clarinet, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Ben Allison: bass; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone; Lionel Loueke: guitar, vocals; Nasheet Waits: drums.