Something restless and antediluvian holds the heart of Serenity Island, Israeli pianist Nuphar Fey's Hypnote debut. It comes at you like the sea winds which open the exotic chamber jazz muse "Wind of South" then passes over you warmly, with all its ghosts and lost voices as the music moves on.
With a stunningly global vision, equally sparse and cinematic, Fey walks one very fine line. She can take a richly lyrical statement (with which Serenity Island clearly abounds) and work its deep elegance or take it perilously close to New Age, with all its impending pratfalls and punditry. But the devil's advocate would say that is not a bad thing, because listening to her walk that line is a potent and striking experience.
Which it is. And that is in no small part due to the nimble, insightful rapport of her tectonic core bassist Daniel Ashkenazy, drummer Gal Petel, and their guests, celloist/vocalist Telalit and percussionist Rony Iwryn, who whispers and echos with a nearly silent grace. Petel and Ashkenazy especially hold Fey back from the fine line mentioned above. But one does not sense a struggle. No, just the opposite: It is more a weaving of wills than a test of patience. More a coalescence of voices than a mad cry in the dark.
Let's take "I Believe In Magic" for example. Like everything else on this captivating debut, its lush mysteries and harmonic content keep rooted in the moment. Mantra-like, it moves through Fey's exotic landscapes, light and dark, each shaded with its own emotional heft when, at the 3:57 mark, Petel starts mixing it up. From there the track quickly becomes an increasingly intense game of pull and release away from the New Age brink and leads to "Imagination," with its strong gospel undertow, as if Leon Russell and Booker T. Jones were leaning over Fey's shoulder and whispering into her ear.
There is a loose constraint elemental to Fey's understanding of how we communicate, as tracks like "At Sea" and the closing "Dream" consequently bring to the fore. And it should always be considered a privilege to discover new music of this caliber.
1 Wind of South, 2 In the Fall, 3 Long Road to Serenity Island, 4 I Believe in Magic, 5
Imagination, 6 Kerem, 7 Smooth Sailing, 8 Rainy Mondays, 9 At Sea, 10 Dream.