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Oded Tzur: Translator's Note

Dan McClenaghan By

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If music has the potential to tell stories, saxophonist Oded Tzur proves himself one of the jazz world's premier storytellers on Translator's Note. "Single Mother," the tune that opens the set, is a vibrant novelette, haunting and atmospheric, riding on the undertones of Indian classical music—a winding tale that gathers intensity and momentum, a sculpting of sounds that is by turns exotically lovely and searingly anguished.

Schooled in a myriad of musical styles, the supremely cohesive set is a striking hybridization of the American jazz form, Middle Eastern modalities, Indian rhythmic concepts and Tzur's incorporation of microtones, in the embrace of superbly synchronized quartet. It is a disc that would fit in well with the ECM Records sound.

"Welcome" is a beautiful rollick, and "The Whale Song," paired with Tzur's eloquent liner notes on the theme, sounds like a a sonic cross between the biblical mysticism and Gabriel Garcia Marquez' magical realism. Here—and everywhere else on the set—Tzur's tenor sax sounds like almost any reed instrument except the tenor sax: bass flute, bass clarinet, oboe. And his quartet, a standard line-up with the sax joined by a piano/bass/drums rhythm section, sounds unlike  any other quartet out there: nuanced and empathic, occasionally frolicsome and always gorgeously unorthodox with it's mix of influences.

"The Three Statements Of Garab Dorje" glides like a monorail on magnetic suspension, Tzur smoldering, and John Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament," the disc's only non-Tzur original, closes the show on what seems a deep rumination on supernatural matters and ghostly apparitions.

Of special note: pianist Shai Maestro's extended  step out front—wrapped in drummer Ziv Ravitz percussive poetry and bassist Petros Klampanis' warm, human heartbeat—on the thirteen minute "Single Mother" begins as an ode to introspection and gathers into one of most joyous and intoxicating pieces of piano artistry on record  this year, a story within a story.   

Track Listing: Single Mother; Welcome; The Whale Song, The Three Statements of Garab Dorje; Lonnie's Lament.

Personnel: Oded Tzur: tenor saxophone; Shai Maestro: piano; Petros Klampanis: bass; Ziv Ravitz: drums.

Title: Translator's Note | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ENJA - Yellowbird

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