Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble - Jazz With a Middle Eastern Twist
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble's eponymous debut album was originally released in 2000 on the Enja/Tiptoe label. This is contemporary jazz that is still clearly recognizable as jazz, yet with a distinct World Jazz twist. Equally, one could argue, this is (at least in part) contemporary Ladino/Sephardi (Judeo-Spanish) music or Middle Eastern music with a strong jazz twist. No matter, for either way, this is an outstanding and exciting album that remains refreshing even nearly three years after
The Orient House Ensemble is led by Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli-born secular Jew living in self-imposed exile in London, England. Atzmon is an outstanding saxophonist and clarinetist with a superb, distinctive voice on both instruments and a flawless technique. The other members of the ensemble are Asaf Sirkis, an Israeli-born drummer/percussionist, and two young Cambridge musicians, Frank Harrison on piano and melodica and Oli Hayhurst on bass. The ensemble playing is tight and empathic. On Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, Atzmon is revealed as a supreme improviser of flowing melodies, deeply steeped on the one hand in swing and bebop as well as post-bop, on the other in Ladino/Sephardi and other Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms. In essence, the music is a successful fusion of post-bop jazz with traditional Ladino and other Sephardic, as well as klezmer and Turkish and other Middle Eastern elements. The results are often hauntingly beautiful and leave much of what generally calls itself contemporary World Jazz or World Fusion Jazz sounding like the shallow, artificial, inorganic constructs that they too often are. Atzmon's powerful music is true world jazz at its best, in the best tradition of the genre's great pioneers such as Yusef Lateef and Ahmed Abdul-Malik who practically invented the genre decades before it acquired its name.
Of the eight tracks on this utterly compelling album, three are Atzmon originals, two traditional Ladino songs, and one each by Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, and one traditional Turkish. Each has its own strengths, and none is weaker than the others, and such consistency is alas only too rare particularly on many contemporary jazz albums.
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble is great music, with great charm, powerful emotions and great, haunting beauty. There is no flashy showiness for the sake of it here, instead, there is solid musicianship and great depth and passion. It is remarkably fresh and wonderfully refreshing. Ignore genre labels, just enjoy this fabulous music!
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