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Daphna Sadeh and the Voyagers: Reconciliation

Ian Patterson By

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The ringing endorsement by John Zorn, describing bassist Daphna Sadeh and the Voyager's Reconciliation as 'brilliant and hypnotic... seductive and powerful music" might sound just a tad like self publicity, given that he commissioned the music for his own label, were it not for the fact that it is true. Sadeh has led the Voyagers on a journey of musical discovery since 2003, and this, their third album, is a distillation of the musical veins that run through ancient and modern Jewish history; Jewish music, yes, but one that rubs shoulders and bumps and grinds with Middle Eastern, Arabic and Turkish sounds.

The musical Israeli Diaspora, which, like a stone in a pond, has created ever expanding waves in the New York jazz scene and beyond, has been a story of note in recent years. Sadeh is perhaps the most Israeli of the lot, at least musically, as she has absorbed so much of the myriad cultures that make up modern Israel. The opener, "Queen of Sheeba," with its bolshy, melodic gaiety, thumping tuba sound, from trombonist Mark Bassey, and Stewart Curtis' flying clarinet, sounds like the soundtrack to an Emir Kursturica film of a Jewish wedding in Jerusalem.

Reconciliation is released as part of John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture series, though Sadeh is on no mission other than a musical one; she was bassist in an Israeli Arabic band which played Lebanese music years before she went to New York to study classical music, and where she ventured into avant-garde jazz. Elements of jazz permeate the Voyagers' music, though jazz is, by Sadeh's own admission, not her natural language. Nevertheless, her understated hand guides the ensemble with a lyricism which brings to mind Charlie Haden, with her lovely arced bow playing and probing but gentle touch.

Accordion, clarinet, guitar and trombone waltz around each other, and unison playing, reminiscent of Rabih Abou-Khalil's ensembles, characterizes these tunes, particularly the fast paced "Gulliver in Jerusalem." This track features fine statements by Curtis, Bassey and Sadeh herself. The musicianship throughout is first rate; solos are short and to the point and individual instruments are employed primarily to route the melody of each piece.

The music is thoughtful, as on "Avinu," but not especially melancholic, with the exception, perhaps, of "Klil"; Sadeh's bass is to the fore here, where it meshes beautifully with Ivor Goldberg's guitar and mandolin in quiet reflection. In general though, even the slower passages of the compositions are upbeat and the music mostly canters along breezily.

The title track does not specifically reference Israel/Palestine, but rather peoples' personal inner battles. It is surely true that if everybody made an effort to address their own prejudices and recognize the common thread that unites all humanity, rejecting harmful dogma and isms in the process, that all the walls would come tumbling down. This is the musical well from which Sadeh and the Voyagers draw their water.

Track Listing: Queen of Sheeba; Gulliver in Jerusalem; Avinu; What Else is There; Reconciliation; Klil; Kadish; Eternal Mother.

Personnel: Daphna Sadeh: double bass, compositions; Stewart Curtis: clarinets, flutes, recorders; Ivor Goldberg: guitars, mandolin, voice; Eddie Hession: accordion; Ronen Kozokaro: percussion, drums; Mark Bassey: trombone.

Title: Reconciliation | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Tzadik

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