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Ofer Assaf: Tangible Reality

Dan McClenaghan By

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Israeli-born, tenor saxophonist Ofer Assaf, who is now New York-based, looks every bit the modern jazz man on the cover of Tangible Reality. He's got the shades, the beret-style hat worn backwards, and—truth in advertising—he's also got the modern jazz man goods.

A big percentage of young mainstream jazz artists try to take the "Miles Davis second great quintet" tangent to make themselves sound cutting edge. Assaf seems more of a mind to craft his own voice, in terms of ensemble sound and his own individual approach to the saxophone.

The leader's "Kingfisher 51" opens the set on an edgy groove, built on Bruce Cox's frenetic drumming. The flame is turned up high, and Assaf sears the air with an incendiary solo leading into trumpeter Jim Rotundi's solo. Rotundi keeps the heat on with his turn, before pianist Theo Hill maintains the high energy atmosphere when the horns back off.

It's mostly a high octane affair, with six of the eight tunes from the leader's pen. The title cut is full of surprises, with Rotundi and Assaf in a contest to see who can walk the higher wire on their solos, with the saxophone growling into a Dewey Redman direction.

Assaf also shows a great respect for the tradition, with a clean, beautiful take on the classic "The Nearness of You." The saxophonist closes with a nod to Coleman Hawkins on the legendary "Body and Soul," taking the classic in the direction of the edge without quite going there, putting his own distinctive stamp on the tune.

The way to break from the pack is by developing one's own voice. Ofer Assaf surges ahead on Tangible Reality.

Track Listing: Kingfisher 51; Tangilble Reality; The Nearness of You; The Archer; Blues for MB; Little Goldmund; Tame the Wild Beast; Body and Soul.

Personnel: Ofer Assaf: tenor saxophone; Jim Rotundi: trumpet (1, 2, 4); Theo Hill: piano; Klaus Mueller: piano (3, 7); Don Pate: bass (3-5, 7, 8); Essiet Essiet: bass (1, 2, 6); Bruce Cox: drums.

Title: Tangible Reality | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Summit Records

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