Gig Review:
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble Album Launch
At The Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho, London W1, Saturday 23rd February 2013
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble -
Album Launch For 'Songs Of The Metropolis'

Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
10 Dean St., London W1D 3RW
Saturday 23rd February 2013, 10.30pm
(2nd Show)


Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble :

Gilad Atzmon - alto & soprano sax, clarinet, accordion, voice
Frank Harrison - piano, keys, voice
Yaron Stavi - bass, voice
Eddie Hick - drums, voice

Date of Review: 2013/02/24

All illustrations by and © Alban Low

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble Album Launch
At The Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho, London W1, Saturday 23rd February 2013

There's nothing quite like the Pizza and its hard-working, friendly and efficient staff. Although not quite full for this second, late performance on the last of three days of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble - Album Launch For Songs Of The Metropolis, the atmosphere was already warming up in anticipation of this special occasion. And if Atzmon and the band appeared a little tired - hardly surprising after a marathon four performances in two days already - ahead of the show, you could still be sure they were going to give their very best as always.

When the performance did get under way, if till now you might still have felt a chill after the freezing cold night outside, this would have instantly disappeared with Frank Harrison's opening bars of his intro to Paris, with his unique, instantly identifiable attack and style. Harrison plays like nobody else, and only Harrison plays and sounds like Harrison. A genius, as even Atzmon himself acknowledges, and one of a kind.

Img. of Frank Harrison
Frank Harrison, piano

But your very heart started melting the moment Atzmon's clarinet came in. So pure, so perfectly controlled, so Bechetesque as to defy belief. So romantic, so beautiful. The sound of the Paris of Bechet, of Piaf, of musette, this is the greatest love song to Paris yet.

After Atzmon switched to soprano for Tel Aviv, the order of the songs became randomised in relation to the order of the album.

Yaron Stavi, among the giants of the modern bass and probably its finest classically trained exponent, is like a fine wine. He still keeps getting better as he matures, impossible as this might seem. According to Atzmon, 'the only bass player who can play bowed bass and still play in time,' Stavi certainly is one of the few whose bow is as exquisite as his pizzicato.

Img. of Yaron Stavi
Yaron Stavi, bass

As for Eddie Hick, he has grown into the indisputably finest drummer of his generation and moreover has firmly implanted the stamp of his own individualistic style on the OHE. He is a joy to listen to in his own right.

And Atzmon himself? Now fast approaching the end of his fiftieth year and facing middle age, he has, as ever, completely reinvented himself. Only a little more radically so than one might have perhaps anticipated. With Songs Of The Metropolis, Atzmon has firmly and decisively stepped out of his comfort zone. For more on all this, see the review of the album.


Img. of Gilad Atzmon
Gilad Atzmon

Atzmon has done well to do so, and has done well in doing so. The eight new original compositions, plus on traditional, are his strongest and most memorable yet. Their performance last night likewise was Atzmon's, and the OHE's, most memorable performance yet. Each and every performance by Atzmon and Co. has so far always proved more exciting than the last, but this goes a lot further than previously.

The undoubted showpiece in this set of love songs to various cities, towns and the like is Scarborough, and so it was last night. The excitement Atzmon and Harrison generated, assisted by Stavi and Hick, was palpable.

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble are still the finest jazz band of our age, bar none, and more so than ever.

Img. of Eddie Hick
Eddie Hick, drums

Atzmon, more than ever, remains the unreachable giant amongst giants, as utterly devastating in his virtuosity as in his creativity and inventiveness. Add in his seasoned skill as a highly charismatic raconteur with tons of charm, and he has audiences in the palm of his hand every time.

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble - Album Launch For Songs Of The Metropolis last night was a simply unforgettable experience, an event more than a mere performance. What one is left to wonder most, is where is Atzmon going to take us next? The one sure bet is that he never stands still.

In closing - a big thank you to Rainlore's World's Artist in Residence Alban Low for the use of his brilliant illustrations of the gig and all his hard work in preparing them. His sketching hand was flying over his pad as if on steroids! To find out more about Alban Low's work and to see more examples of his exquisite art and to get a catalogue of posters and prints, please visit his web site and his blogs, Art Of Jazz and Art Of Folk.

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