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Itai Kriss: The Shark

Edward Blanco By

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Swimming through the ocean of jazz, navigating the currents of melodies and harmonies while avoiding the jaws of a shark, can be a blissful experience. There is one shark, though, that needn't be feared, masterfully created by Israeli-born flautist Itai Kriss. The Shark is an exercise in modern hard-bop and Caribbean/Latin rhythms that takes a big bite of jazz and leaves quite an impressive mark. His first album as leader, New York-resident Kriss has been actively involved in performing with his quartet, The Salsa All-Stars, and producing/arranging for Latin and pop recordings.

The Shark features heavy hitters, including pianist Aaron Goldberg, drummer Eric McPherson, and fellow countryman, trumpeter Avishai Cohen. Except for Jack Glottman's title track, the repertoire is all original, with some pieces composed while Kriss was in residence at Washington, DC's prestigious Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead program at the John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts. Kriss' aggressive, exotic style and virtuoso technique set him apart from other flautists; his strong approach on the opening title track bears this out, as he leads the charge on a modern piece with a very inviting melody.

"Kamuvan" is a swinging piece of music featuring tenor saxophonist John Ellis, but the flautist remains the center attraction, even after an interlude by Goldberg. Joining Cohen on "Four by Four" makes this piece one of the disc's highlights, while the Latin rhythms kick in on the lovely, Brazilian-flavored "Breeza," which pianist Goldberg picks up nicely before handing it over to the leader. "Danzon No.1" is an obviously overt Latin piece that is easily at home on any Latin music album.

Kriss tears up the fast-paced "Sketch For Toki," aptly demonstrating his instrumental facility with rapid solo phrases. Kriss once again shares the space with Cohen on "Booty Call," album finale featuring a bouncy Caribbean rhythm and Omer Avital's fine bass work. There are plenty of highlights on the album, many of them from Kriss, who affirms his reputation as a flautist of note. The selection is varied and adventurous, confirming expectations that Kriss' The Shark is quite a catch—and well worth more than a single spin.

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