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Omer Avital Group: Room to Grow

Jim Santella By

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Recorded 1997 at Smalls in New York, this session maintains the growth that was spawned by the late John Coltrane thirty to forty years earlier. Along with the traditional elements that made their way into jazz from European classical music, Omer Avital's ensembles add Middle Eastern ties that broaden the harmonic horizon and create fresh new attire. Theirs is an exciting adventure that merely evolves from the roots of the master.

The combination of four saxophones with bass and drums seems like unusual instrumentation, even for a modern jazz sextet. Since the four horns serve as a saxophone choir and turn in impressive solo work, the design is valid. Besides, it gives the bassist/leader plenty of time to step out in front and show his love for moody blues, warm melodies and the family tradition of caressing a theme instead of pushing it too hard. His bass interpretations tread softly on undercrowded urban sidewalks that harbor no reason for haste. Along the way, he's able to stop and smell the aroma that comes from his musical neighborhood of eclectic sources.

Throughout this session, Myron Walden's alto comes on strong as the voice with a squawk and a squeal; he's got a lot to say and enjoys doing so with unbridled passion. Avital's big, booming bass contrasts with his suave demeanor, which remains quiet and stable. Each of the other three saxophonists, known veterans who've never been at a loss for ideas, contributes plenty. None of the others prefer to shriek like Walden, a factor that balances the night's performance admirably.

John Coltrane's "26-2 begins with a saxophone choir and flute, pursuing Bach-like counterpoint that reaches way back to earlier forms of music. Avital follows with a searing bass statement that includes double stops and cascades of rhythm designed to kick off the song's familiar tempo and mood. He then alternates with the saxophone choir to deliver solemn statements that groove soulfully and provide emotional impetus for his group of expressive artists. Together, they pay homage to the master and blaze trails of their own with enlightened spirits fired by passion for the music.

Track Listing: Kentucky Girl; It

Personnel: Omer Avital: bass; Gregory Tardy: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Myron Walden: alto saxophone; Grant Stewart, Charles Owens: tenor saxophone; Joe Strasser: drums.

Title: Room to Grow | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Smalls Records

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