Tuesday, April 26, 2011

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Assaf Kehati, Flowers and Other Stories, self-produced
One of the great thing about today’s globalized jazz scene is that musicians from other countries and other cultures are stretching by weaving in the rhythms, tonal colors and sensibilities of the
ir homelands. Jazz is all the richer for it. This second recording as a leader by Israeli-born guitarist Assaf Kehati is one such project. Kehati is based in Boston and has been working with the quartet featured on Flowers… for five years. (He also leads a trio featuring veteran drummer Billy Hart.)

On this project, the quartet teams Kehati with saxophonist Alon Ferber, bassist Daniel Sapir and drummer Udi Shlomo performing seven of the guitarist’s original compositions. From the opening b
ar of “Calling Me Home,” the CD’s extended opener, you’ll savor the exotic-sounding intimacy of this group. Kehati and Farber play as if there’s one musical mind at work. The rhythmic surprises on “Mr. Mario” are equally intriguing. There is a lot to savor here. The reflective ballads “The Most Beautiful Flower” and “The Snow and the Sun” are filled with beauty.

Burgstaller Martignon 4, Bach's Secret Files and More Crossover Fantasies, Summit
This quartet is on to something quite marvelous: a hybrid interplay between jazz and classical music - even opera - that should please fans of both genres, and expose the separa
tists to the virtues of each form. The band is co-led by former Canadian Brass trumpeter Joe Berstaller and pianist Hector Martignon, who has serious Latin jazz credentials. As they did previously with Mozart, they have an addiction to mining the possibilities found within J.S. Bach's music (five of 11 tracks come from the Bach repertoire) but also stretching their concept to the work of early 1900s avant-gardist Erik Satie, plus impressionist Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Giacomo Puccini.

Most often, they add an invigorating jazz twist to a classical work, like Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1" and the Aria from Bach's "Goldberg Variations." A pleasant Flamenco tinge adds to the opener, "The River of Night," a Bergstaller melody set to Bach's "Praeludium in C minor," and Ravel's "Piece en Forme de Habanera" (Spanish Haze). Martignon brings some serious clavé to Bach's "Praeludium XI in F Major" (here subtitled "A Start to Something"). Their version of "Gymnopédie" is delightful. Bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer John Ferrari round out the quartet. In a bit of variation from their premier CD, Mozart's Blue Dreams & Other Crossover Fantasies, they also added select appearances by soprano Brenda Feliciano (on "Ebarme Dich"), percussionist Samuel Torres on six of 11 tracks, and cellist Michael Kannen on Mendelssohn's "Lieder Ohne Worte."

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