Material from the Gilad Atzmon With Strings project (the album In Loving Memory Of America) formed the core of the second set of the night, with a few selections also from the Robert Wyatt / Gilad Atzmon / Ros Stephen album For The Ghosts Within.
For this second set, the OHE's regular drummer, the prodigiously gifted Eddie Hick, took his seat at the traps, and the OHE were also joined by the excellent Sigamos String Quartet.
Following on from master drummer Asaf Sirkis' first set appearance cannot have been easy for Hick - indeed, it would have been hard on any other drummer - but he absolved himself excellently. The contrast of styles between these two drummers is of course huge, and hearing them in successive sets certainly served to emphasize this difference. (This difference becomes even more emphatic if you heard Sirkis in live performances of this material until 2009, or have the album, which was also still recorded with Sirkis.) Kudos to Eddie Hick for handling this "follow-on" so well.
The unparalleled beauty of the "With Strings" material was given full rein, with Atzmon and Harrison's edgy improvs and dialogues contrasting exhilaratingly with the serene strings of Stephen and her Sigamos Quartet. As indeed with the first set, one did not want this second one to end.
The selections from the Wyatt/Atzmon/Stephen collaboration For the Ghosts Within in this set were just as breathtaking. Atzmon's multi-talented singer wife, Tali Atzmon, delivered beautiful, dreamy, sensuous renditions of the Atzmon/Benge-penned title track of the album, The Ghosts Within - although its subject is specifically the plight of the Palestinian people, this could be a universal anthem for the displaced, dispossessed and oppressed anywhere - and the Stephen/Benge-penned Lullaby For Irena.
The Raksin/Mercer standard Laura was given a sensitive and not over-sentimental interpretation by the incredibly versatile Guillermo Rozenthuler. This may have come as something of a surprise to some, but Rosenthuler's repertoire, although generally concentrating on tango and other mainly Argentinean and Uruguayan forms, encompasses almost any kind of song you could think of - bossa to folk to modern popular classics to contemporary popular material and more.
The third set of this marathon extravaganza focused on the new material from Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble's recent tenth anniversary album The Tide Has Changed, launched at Ronnie Scott's on 1st October.
On the opening title track, Atzmon and the OHE were joined by Tali Atzmon for the wordless vocals. Atzmon's compositions are always highly memorable, but The Tide Has Changed has to be one of his catchiest yet. The intensity here reached fever pitch. Atzmon has sometimes stated, half jokingly, that a live recording of his playing would be too intense for anybody to listen to at home. Sometimes, one can't help but wonder if he might not have a valid point. (Personally, I'd take the chance any day though.) During Atzmon's feverish, fiery bebop runs here one could have been forgiven for thinking it was Bird himself on that stage - but this is Bird with something extra.
Other selections included the most Coltrane-esque track on the album, London To Gaza, and the Balkans/Klezmer-inflected All The Way To Montenegro.
While each of the three sets was sizzling with intensity, in this third set Atzmon and his OHE seemed to up the ante more and more to an almost unbearable level of sheer musical, almost orgasmic, ecstasy that left one truly breathless. The combination of Atzmon and Harrison alone is lethal, the like of which we have not heard in decades, if then.
For the finale, Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble were joined by Asaf Sirkis, playing side by side with Eddie Hick, as well as the wordless vocals of Tali Atzmon, Guillermo Rozenthuler and Romano Viazzani, and the Sigamos strings. A more exhilarating finale would have been hard to imagine.
Throughout the three sets, the charismatic Atzmon engaged his audience with his customary witty banter, providing some light relief from the incredible intensity of the performances.
Sadly, like all good things, this magical evening had to come to an end. After all, even musicians get exhausted, and after this high-octane, high energy tour de force nobody could have blamed them for wanting some well deserved rest.
An unforgettable night the like of which we are unlikely to see in a hurry. But, there's always the OHE's 20th Anniversary to look forward to!
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