On his previous releases, Like a Great River
(Enja, 2016) and Translator's Note
(Enja, 2017), New York-based tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur
amalgamated Eastern and Western elements and deep, balmy phrasing which drew sincere comparisons to John Coltrane
. Not surprisingly, Manfred Eicher
took notice and signed the Tel Aviv native to ECM for his third album, Here Be Dragons
Along with the new label comes a revised lineup; pianist Nitai Hershkovits replaces Shai Maestro, and drummer Ziv Ravitz is replaced by Johnathan Blake
, with bassist Petros Klampanis carried over from the last album. Blake is a journeyman drummer with over fifty album credits and appearances with Tom Harrell
, Kenny Barron
, Oliver Lake
, Roy Hargrove
, Donny McCaslin
and others. His trio with tenor saxophonist Chris Potter
and bassist Linda May Han Oh
released the highly recommended Trion
(Giant Step Arts) in 2019. Hershkovits released his own impressive trio outing Lemon the Moon
(Yellowbird, 2019), drawing well-deserved global acclaim.
Tzur's penchant for melding East and West is more subtle on Here Be Dragons
than on his past two releases. The album opens with the title track, a relaxed, but exploratory, meditation allowing each musician ample time to express their individual interpretation. The connected series of "Miniature 1," "Miniature 2," and "Miniature 3"the lengthiest running two-and-one-half-minutesfeatures solo contributions from Hershkovits, Klampanis, and Tzur, respectively, and each is a captivating little beauty. An energized "The Dream" follows and it is the sole hot spot on Here Be Dragons
Tzur wrote all the compositions on Here Be Dragons
except for the closing piece, "Can't Help Falling In Love," made famous by Elvis Presley
. Each of Tzur's pieces has hypnotic and inventive qualities and the saxophonist continues to be a master raconteur. His move to ECM assures a wider audience for this deserving artist.
Here Be Dragons; To Hold Your Hand; 20 Years; Miniature 1; Miniature 2; Miniature 3; The Dream; Can't Help Falling In Love.
Oded Tzur: tenor saxophone; Nitai Hershkovits: piano; Petros Klampanis: double bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.