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Alon Nechustan: Venture Bound

Dan Bilawsky By

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Pianist Alon Nechustan is full of surprises. His work with Talat— The Growl (Tzadik, 2007)—placed him in the alt klezmer jazz category, but he refused to stay put in that area. Nechustan changed gears with Words Beyond (Buckyball Records, 2011), casting aside his allegiance to Hebraic-tinged melodies so he could focus on the modern language of the jazz trio. Then he quickly abandoned that course-on-record, redefining himself as an electro-acoustic outlier with the grim Dark Forces (Creative Sources Recordings, 2011) and re-centering himself with Ritual Fire (Between The Lines, 2013), a ten-part suite for jazz quartet. Nechustan clearly doesn't like to repeat himself, so it should come as no shock that Venture Bound is something different altogether.

This record, perhaps more than any other in Nechustan's discography, is the sum of the pianist-composer's beliefs. He doesn't paint himself into a specific corner or rely on a single guiding principle here. Instead, he simply tears down the walls of stylistic separation in his work, delivering a record that may be the truest representation of his artistic self.

Nechustan's interests in Middle Eastern-tinged creations, odd meters, direct melodies, and rhythmic rabble-rousing are on display throughout this date. As a soloist he's capable of setting the mood via gorgeous sound painting, hammering down chordal proclamations, or casting off sprinting sixteenth note runs; as a composer, he's capable of anything. Twist-and-turn constructs (mostly) in seven ("L'Avventura"), sunny silk-spun melodies that betray his roots ("The Gratitude Suite"), a somewhat Monk-ish creation ("Serpentrails"), an adrenaline-fueled danger ride ("Pome(Grenades"), and a taste of the old school ("Haunted Blues") all surface at one time or another.

The music on Venture Bound is basically built around a foursome, with Nechustan joining forces with bassist Chris Lightcap, drummer Adam Cruz, and one of two saxophonists—either John Ellis, who immediately establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with on "L'Avventura," or the ever-impressive Donny McCaslin. A few guests drop in—trumpeter Duane Eubanks expands the frontline on a couple of occasions, oud player Brahim Fribgane re-contextualizes the group's sound on "Dark Damsel," and percussionist Rogerio Boccato adds a dash of percussive coloring—but this record still plays out as a four-man operation.

Thus far, Alon Nechustan's recorded oeuvre has marked him as a restless and wandering spirit; that's what continually makes his work so interesting. Venture Bound finds him looking out in all directions, sharing wondrous views within anybody willing to look and listen.

Track Listing: L'Avventura; The Gratitude Suite; Pome (Grenades); Dark Damsel; Sneak Peak; Haunted Blues; Snow-Flow; F.A.Q.; Serpentrails.

Personnel: Alon Nechustan: piano; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone (2, 4, 6, 8); John Ellis: tenor saxophone (1, 3, 5, 7, 9); Chris Lightcap: bass; Duane Eubanks: trumpet (2, 6); Roggerio Boccato: percussion (2); Brahim Fribgane: oud (4).

Title: Venture Bound | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Enja Records

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