Tomer Baruch Quintet: The Nature Of Not Knowing


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Tomer Baruch Quintet
The Nature Of Not Knowing
Cool-Kalb Records

Israeli pianist Tomer Baruch marks his first recorded foray into jazz with The Nature Of Not Knowing, an ambitious project melding philosophy and jazz. What is his philosophy, what is he trying to convey? If we knew we wouldn't be listening.

Whatever it is though, it works. The Nature of Not Knowing is, for all its heavy ideas, quite accessible. It is contemplative, certainly, but at no point does it lose focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, dim as that light may seem. Baruch's compositions are less memorable for their note progressions as for the feelings they provoke. This is a quiet band—they're not going to blow you away. But it is The Nature Of Not Knowing's moments of sparseness that speak the loudest. Baruch especially has a light touch on his instrument, slowing things down and wringing all the meaning out of each note.

The opening "The Nature Of Not Knowing" commences with a soundscape created by the five musicians. It conveys the vastness of life and space. That soundscape is punctuated by Baruch's simple, timidly played opening line, delivered as if embarking on a journey of knowledge gathering. The piano meanders aimlessly for a while before, joined by the drums, it triumphantly finds a path. Keith Jarrett's modern solo improvisations come to mind—the process of discovery only serves to highlight the beauty of the answer. Slowly, the bass joins in, supporting the piano and following the same path as the pace gradually quickens. The bass imperceptibly takes the lead for a moment before ceding it back to Baruch and laying out as the pace slows markedly.

If "The Nature Of Not Knowing" gives the impression of trailblazing in a wooded forest, "Talkin'" takes place in a rowdy bar. The contrast in atmosphere is stark as the dual saxophones of Tal Gur and Gal Dahan state the theme. The saxophones enter into a true conversation—playing superbly off of each other. Baruch himself then launches into a monolog, with the rest of the band interjecting at opportune moments, before the theme is restated.

A return to the freer playing of "The Nature Of Not Knowing" follows, with Gur's alto saxophone taking the lead this time. Baruch intervenes frequently with single notes, as if just throwing out ideas. "Song" comes next, a haunting ballad. Baruch's sparse playing fits the tune perfectly, giving it a tranquil feeling until Dahan enters with his soulful touch. If Baruch's piano weeps in private, Dahan's sax sings in public, wailing out its longing for all to hear. The band then restates the theme with more foreboding than earlier, as though giving a warning.

A short, choppy restatement of the theme from "Talkin'" ensues, followed by "Cry," featuring the most dissonant playing on the album. Drums and bass are in a hurry, while the saxophones stumble around slowly, groping blindly to find a direction.

The mean bass line of "Blues" gives way to a very different theme. Drummer Adam Cohen holds down a heavy groove without playing very much, and Baruch takes his busiest solo, filling the space left by Cohen. The meanness of Ofri Izvori's bass returns as he takes a solo full of, well, soul. After a drum break, the saxophones duel back and forth, bringing the tune to its climax before returning to the theme, altered ever so slightly from its original statement.

A final rediscovery of "The Nature Of Not Knowing" is welcome at this juncture, its solitude reminding the listener that the nature of not knowing is often lonely. When bass and drums join the pensive piano, the tune becomes even more melancholy than it already was.

This is not an album meant to be listened to as background music—it is meant to be paid attention to, meant to provoke thought in the listener. In this endeavor, Baruch succeeds admirably.

Tracks: The Nature of Not Knowing/Whisper; Talkin' 1; The Nature Of Not Knowing; Song; Talkin' 2; Cry; Blues; The Nature Of Not Knowing; Morning.

Personnel: Tomer Baruch: piano; Tal Gur: soprano & alto saxophones; Gal Dahan: tenor saxophone; Ofri Ivzori: bass; Adam Cohen: drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Cool-Kalb Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

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