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Itai Kriss: The Shark

Dan Bilawsky By

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New and/or notable flute voices in jazz don't seem to come around very often. While scores of saxophonists double on this instrument, very few players that enter the jazz trenches are pure flautists, through and through. When a musician makes the decision to focus solely on an instrument like the flute, they might be narrowing their opportunities, but that risk sometimes yields rewards, and this would seem to hold true in the case of flautist Itai Kriss. His choice of instrument, and the distinguished company he keeps, help to make The Shark a buzz-worthy release.

Kriss' New York encounters have dealt with musical and cultural cross-pollination and his experiences informs his writing. He proves to be equally conversant in breezy Brazilian fare ("Breeza") and Cuban numbers with hints of Argentina ("Danzon No. 1"), but his writing isn't limited to Latin America. He tackles swing in a hard-bop vein ("Kamuvan") and gives über-drummer Eric McPherson's right hand a serious, up-tempo workout on "Sketch For Toki." With these tunes, Kriss demonstrates a strong architectural sense for music that comes from fairly traditional sources, but his work doesn't end there either.

His modernist tendencies come out on several notable numbers. "The Gypsy" wanders like its namesake, starting with a simple descending and ascending line from pianist Aaron Goldberg and bassist Omer Avital, moving to haunting night music with slight Hebraic undertones, making an abrupt turn South—via Aaron Goldberg's piano patterns—and ending up in some serious, samba-inflected territory. When trumpeter Avishai Cohen joins Kriss on "Four By Four," both men flutter and flail over a stable rhythm presence as the terrain shifts, allowing the music to come in and out of focus.

Kriss creates variety in other places by overdubbing multiple flute parts ("Chang Chang"), dabbling in odd-metered grooves ("The Shark"), and dealing in funky, reggae-fied jazz of a highly accessible, head-bobbing nature ("Booty Call"). Avital's hip bass lines set the course for the group in all three cases, and McPherson is right there with him, providing the perfect feel for each number.

While the under-the-radar Sababa (Self Produced, 2000) might have marked Kriss' debut as a leader on record, The Shark marks his arrival as a flute force to be reckoned with.

Track Listing: The Shark; Kamuvan; Gypsy; Four By Four; Chang Chang; Breeza; Danzon No. 1; Sketch For Toki; Booty Call.

Personnel: Itai Kriss: flute; Aaron Goldberg: piano; Omer Avital: bass; Eric McPherson: drums; Avishai Cohen: trumpet (4, 9); John Ellis: tenor saxophone (2).

Title: The Shark | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Self Produced

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