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Yakir Arbib: My Name Is Yakir

Don Phipps By

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Clever and entertaining, My Name is Yakir offers a diverse potpourri of jazz standards and original compositions performed by pianist Yakir Arbib. The music contrasts standards from the Dixieland, swing, bebop and hard bop eras with five originals that mix classical idioms with loose jazz structures. Arbib certainly has talent and his technical dexterity permits him to play within these various jazz styles and cross between them with ease.

Arbib brings lots of energy to the covers and at times only hints at the central theme amidst all the improvisation and development. For example, George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" is given an energetic, bouncy reading with some honky tonk and Dixieland thrown in for good measure. Rapid fingerings suggest a soundtrack to a silent movie where the pianist plays during the screen action. Or take the Duke Ellington classic, "Caravan," here given a robust interpretation that is topsy-turvy and rambunctious with a dash of dissonance. Then there's Charlie Parker's ageless "Scrapple From The Apple," which highlights Arbib's love of piano gymnastics and his use of phrases involving interlocking left and right-hand runs.

Arbib's readings are not all flash though. He gives Doc Daugherty's tune "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)," made popular by the immortal Louis Armstrong, a loopy delivery, one that could qualify for a Woody Allen soundtrack. And then there's his use of an almost free chordal structure on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," where forceful energy and classical banter have the feeling of running up and down escalators two steps at a time. Arbib even echoes composers like Modest Mussorgsky and Sergei Prokofiev. While more straightforward than his restructuring of other standards, on Ray Noble's "Cherokee," Arbib challenges the listener with a mix of Art Tatum meets Thelonious Monk.

Arbib's originals are more nuanced, and suggest Claude Debussy or Erik Satie. "Going To And Returning From Not There" might have been written by Debussy if he were jazz-inclined. The "Rendez-vous à Paris," a ballad which arcs in tick tock style, recalls a tune emanating from a ballerina music box. And "A Dusty Letter," sounds very impressionistic—the music hinting at a black & white film-noir romance.

All in all, My Name Is Yakir is both spirited and entertaining. And while the juxtaposition of poetic originals and robust readings of standards can be a bit jarring, Arbib's gift is his ability to bring these contrasts to a satisfying conclusion.

Track Listing

I Got Rhythm; I'm Confessin' (That I Love You); Caravan; Going To And Returning From Not There; C Sharp Between Us; Scrapple From The Apple; Giants Steps; Rendez-vous à Paris; A Dusty Letter; Confirmation; Cherokee; Sun On Flowers.

Personnel

Yakir Arbib: piano.

Album information

Title: My Name Is Yakir | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Self Produced

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