Fairytales and myths abound with characters like vocalist Ayelet Rose Gottlieb. One recent night the tiny being took the stage at Cornelia Street Café. Dressed in filmy black attire, with a purple beaded, net kerchief wrapped around her cascading dark hair, she resembled a midnight mermaid glittering with dew from the sea.
Upon opening her mouth, it seemed the 25 year-old’s ancestry must include those bewitching sirens of Greek legend, though her music is culled from a place eastward across the Mediterranean. Gottlieb’s debut disc, Internal/External
, combines her intense connection to Israeli roots with a vibrant endeavor to expand vocal jazz.
“As I Lay (Al Mishavi)” directly quotes the bible (Song Of Songs 3:1 to 5:5). Sung entirely in Hebrew, the song warns about the perils of true love found too fast. Gottlieb’s resonant vocals and Avishai Cohen’s foreboding trumpet solos lend a gracious elegance to this gorgeous track with a strong, heel-stomping beat. Other tunes convey Gottlieb’s Jewish influence in less traditional ways. Unabashedly confident in experimenting with the range and sounds of her voice, she makes frequent use of Hebrew inflections. On “Brewing The Brews Of Distance,” a group improvisation, she gurgles from the back of her throat, rolls her tongue, and yells in undulating rhythms—an adventurous foray, though not entirely pleasant to the ear.
Gottlieb’s still in the early stages of developing a relationship with her voice, but the two are eager to make fast friends. You can tell she really enjoys scatting. On “What’s Done Is Done,” her voice blends with the trumpet and skips joyfully across the expansive drums and churning bass line, like a sunfish skimming and bobbing over gently rolling waves.
Bassist Ed Schuller and drummer Bob Meyer mesh beautifully together and create a lush cushion for the other musicians to saunter across. On “Portrait Of U” Shahar Levavi’s guitar whispers through the bass solo adding a subdued layer to the exotic rhythm. Pianist Matt Mitchell, and Cohen combine for a breathtaking duo for Charles Mingus’ “Portrait,” which joins Ornette Coleman’s “Peace” for two jazz treasures on the album. The latter features a sharp, wild solo by alto saxophonist Matana Roberts, and Gottlieb lyrics that depict a tale of homesickness.
The final, and title track sets music to the philosophical words of Russian abstract painter and musician Wassily Kandinsky. The text examines human isolation versus involvement in the world, and in art. Gottlieb recites with enthusiastic aplomb as the band backs her with a frenzy of ethereal shimmer and dangerous pluck.