Pianist Roy Assaf decided to try a different studio tactic when he set out to make this record. Instead of simply having his trio take multiple passes at tracks on a single predetermined playlist, he decided to have the group simulate a stay at a club. They recorded multiple sets, accumulating almost five hours worth of recorded music. When all was said and done, he sifted through it all to come up with the best material for this album. It's a novel way to bridge the studio-live divide, and it worked like a charm here.
Assaf and company dole out twelve numbers culled from those sets on Second Row Behind The Painter, referencing everything from Middle Eastern modality to futuristic funk to the work of Duke Ellington. Nothing is off limits and everything is open to (re)interpretation. A sense of contentment carries through Frank Loesser's "Never Will I Marry," Michel Petrucciani's "It's A Dance" is born from concentric musical circles, eventually settling into a proper place, and Ellington's "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)" is given the Brad Mehldau-meets-Jon Brion treatment, with drummer Jake Goldbas playing the Matt Chamberlain role to perfection. The only other coverIsraeli songwriter Naomi Shemer's "Kvar Acharei Chatzot"is an obvious nod to Assaf's homeland; here, the pianist is in a reflective, Aaron Goldberg-esque state of peacefulness.
The rest of the album is made up of Assaf originals and interludesoff-the-cuff creations that Assaf, Goldbas, and bassist Raviv Markovitz created. "Interlude #1" grows out of rustlings and rumblings, turning into a showcase for Goldbas' goings-on; "Interlude #2" finds the drummer playing a fairly static role, as spare ideas from his band mates come to the fore; and "Interlude #3" is something of a gentle unraveling.
The Assaf originals prove to be just as wide-ranging as the rest of the material. "Second Row Behind The Painter" is both mournful and graceful; "Con Grew" comes off like some lost jam from a Robert Glasper session; and "Folk-Lore" is eight minutes of pure joy, introduced by a funky drum-and-bass hook-up. If Assaf really has another four hours of this stuff in the can, he should really consider putting some more of it out there. This is primo trio stuff.
Second Row Behind The Painter; Babel; Never Will I Marry; It's A Dance; Interlude #1; I
Got It Bad; Interlude #2; Interlude #3; Con Grew; Folk-Lore; Kvar Acharei Chatzot;
Roy Assaf: piano, synthesizer; Raviv Markovitz: bass; Jake Goldbas: drums.
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