Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

356

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble: Refuge

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Something of a polymath amongst the general corpus of jazz musicians, Israeli-born reed player Gilad Atzmon, London-based since 1994, is not only a prolific performer and recording artist, but also a novelist, political essayist and campaigning anti-Zionist. Atzmon's books—his most recent, My One And Only Love (Saqi Books, 2004), is a comic satire about a Jewish trumpet player who becomes ensnared in an Israeli spying operation—have been enthusiastically received on the literary pages. His fiery and outspoken political activities are more controversial.



Onstage, Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble have a reputation for giving performances as in your face and uncompromising as Atzmon's anti-Zionism. By contrast, the band's albums—Refuge is the fifth—have tended to be more measured affairs, placing Atzmon's visceral mix of bop, free-bop, fusion, Jewish and Arabic musics in a more finely nuanced context.



Some listeners have welcomed Orient House's approach to studio albums; others have found it uninvolving. Personally, I love it. If I want to be beaten about the ears with sonic excess, I'd sooner volunteer for the experience in a club than in my own home. But what shouldn't be in dispute is the quality of Refuge, which is certainly Atzmon and Orient House's most assured recorded outing to date, and one of the most satisfying jazz albums to come out of the UK so far in 2007.



All the tunes are Atzmon originals and, as some of the titles suggest, politics continue to drive his music, though here subtly so. "Autumn In Baghdad," a lovely, wistful ballad with an Arabic flavor, alludes to happier, less murderous times in that ancient city of culture and scholarship. "Spring In New York," the most heated and fusionesque track, powered by a heavy electric bass ostinato, all speed and frenetic energy, is ironic in title, a bedmate perhaps of Mel Brooks' "Springtime For Hitler" in The Producers. "The Burning Bush" is overtly Middle Eastern in feel, and at just under thirteen minutes the longest track, in which Atzmon weaves first tremulous clarinet, then vibrant alto saxophone through a soundscape of distant Arabic singing and vaguely unsettling electronic effects.



Ballads dominate the album. "In The Small Hours" could have been written by Billy Strayhorn, and Atzmon's glissing alto inevitably, and gloriously, evokes Johnny Hodges. "Her Smile," performed without drums over Yaron Stavi's bowed bass, is another gorgeous alto showcase. Stavi shines further on "Her Tears," again playing with a bow, his instrument gently weeping. "My Refuge" sets Atzmon's delicate shabbaabeh flute against Asaf Sirkis' insistent tribal beats, played with brushes on the snare drum. The closing "Prayer For Peace" is as meditative as the title suggests.



Far from being "only" a refined version of Orient House's live performances, Refuge is, instead, a more profound expression of it, a brilliantly navigated combination of gentle, sensitive lyricism and precisely focused passion.

Track Listing: Autumn In Baghdad; Spring In New York; In The Small Hours; The Burning Bush; Her Smile; Her Tears; My Refuge; Prayer For Peace.

Personnel: Gilad Atzmon: alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, electronics, shabbaabeh flute, piccolo, voice; Frank Harrison: piano, Fender Rhodes, electronics, Farfisa organ, Jun 6, harmonium; Yaron Stavi: double bass, electric bass; Asaf Sirkis: drums; Paul Jayasinha: trumpet (4 ,6).

Title: Refuge | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Enja Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Caldera / Sky Islands Album Reviews
Caldera / Sky Islands
By Jakob Baekgaard
May 25, 2019
Read Baby, Please Come Home Album Reviews
Baby, Please Come Home
By Doug Collette
May 25, 2019
Read Reckless Heart Album Reviews
Reckless Heart
By Doug Collette
May 25, 2019
Read Fire Brigade Album Reviews
Fire Brigade
By Phillip Woolever
May 25, 2019
Read Day to Day Album Reviews
Day to Day
By Paul Naser
May 24, 2019
Read Theia Album Reviews
Theia
By Jim Worsley
May 24, 2019