All three members of this group originally hail from Israel, but Trio Shalva actually took shape a world away, at the global epicenter of the jazz universe. Pianist Assaf Gleizner, guitarist/bassist Koby Hayon and drummer Nadav Snir-Zelniker were each pursuing their own musical paths in New York when they connected for a gig in 2009, and the musical sparks were quick to fly. Now, two short years later, they arrive with their debut album, filled with worldly music that proudly displays their roots.
While the word "shalva" actually means "serenity" in Hebrew, the music on Riding Alone isn't sleep-inducing sonics for musical simpletons. This threesome tackles originals and reinvents Middle Eastern music of various styles in enthusiastic fashion. "Shir Ahava Bedoui" is born anew with a bouncy groove and funky piano solo, twisted rhythmic turns in the melodic line of "Kvar Avru HaShanim" keep everybody on their toes, and the traded melodic phrases between Gleizner's piano and Hayon's bass keeps things interesting as the odd-metered "Sova" takes off. They even manage to reinvent the Israeli folk song "Erev Shel Shoshanim" as the reinvent themselves, switching instruments to work in a guitar, melodica and frame drum format, but their mid-album performance of "Misirlou," which frees the song from the shackles of surf music serfdom and leaves it to roam in an arid musical desert, may ultimately take the cake.
The majority of this music speaks to the band's geographic origins, but a pair of numbers from Koby Hayon's pen moves beyond these borders. "1-3-4-8" is a lovely waltz that opens with a serenade of cymbals from Zelniker and continues along as a feature for Gleizner, while "Vertigo" begins with abstract tendencies and eventually takes shape around the piano.
Riding alone may be for those seeking road weary solitude, but Riding Alone is all about three like-minded musicians taking a journey together. With only two years behind them, Trio Shalva still has plenty of road to travel together, but their trip is off to a great start with this album.
Track Listing: Shir Ahava Bedoui; 1-3-4-8; Kvar Avru HaShanim; Riding Alone; Vertigo; Misirlou; Pizmon La Yakinton; Sova; Erev Shel Shoshanim.