The number Twelve
has several explicit meanings on Israeli-born composer/pianist Noam Lemish
's eighth album as leader of his own ensemble, which is twelve members strong (well, thirteen on the first two numbers, on which Laura Swankey
adds wordless vocals, and twenty-five if one counts the thirteen-member chorus on Track 3). Returning to the basic premise, Lemish composed his first piece of music at age twelve, and it has been twelve years since he relocated from San Francisco to Toronto, Canada. And the recording comprises twelve numbers when multiplied by two (okay, that is stretching things a bit).
Sizing up the half-dozen numbers on offer, all save one ("Steals on Steeles") plays for eleven minutes or more. "Steals," the album's jazziest theme, includes assertive solos by trombonist Karl Silveira
and trumpeter Kevin Turcotte
. Elsewhere, Lemish displays his eclectic nature, using classical, Yiddish, Soviet-Jewish and assorted other folk influences to underlne his purpose. Classical has the upper hand on "Beethoven's 7th Visit to Romania," wherein Lemish borrows heavily from the second movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. The chorus helps chart the melodic course while trumpeter Jim Lewis
and tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson
improvise. It's an interesting excursion that certainly has its colorful avenues, but after thirteen minutes, the feeling here is that Ludwig may have slightly overstayed his welcome.
The studio date opens gently with the lovely tone poem "Song for Lia," written to salute the birth of Lemish's niece (brisk solos by alto Allison Au
and guitarist Ted Quinlan
) and continues with "The Nagila Mayster," a newly-minted English/Hebrew/Yiddish construct whose proximate meaning is "Master of Joyfulness" and whose sunny theme is introduced by vibraphonist Michael Davidson
, with help from the ensemble. "Beethoven's Visit" is followed by "Steals," the earnest, dual-shaped "Between Utopia and Destruction" and enheartening "Rebirth." Lemish and Jefferson (soprano) are the soloists on "Utopia," Quinlan, Davidson, Turcotte, Au, tenor Mike Murley
and drummer Derek Gray
on "Rebirth." The rhythm section (Quinlan, Gray, bassist Justin Gray
) plays its part well, readily adapting to Lemish's variations in tone and tempo.
This is music with ample meat on its bones, six elaborate yet persuasive motifs whose pathways should be traversed more than once to earn one's understanding and appreciation. Lemish has certainly done his part; the final verdict, as the saying goes, lies in the eye (or in this case, the ears) of the beholder.
Song for Lia; The Nagila Mayster; Beethoven’s 7th Visit to Romania; Steals on Steeles;
Between Utopia and Destruction; Rebirth.
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