Gig Review:
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
At The Pizza Express Jazz Club
10 Dean Street, Soho, London W1, Tuesday 13th January 2004
Photo of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
L to R: Frank Harrison, Gilad Atzmon, Yaron Stavi, Romano Viazzani, Ovidu Fratila, Asaf Sirkis
All photos this page by Richard A. Sharma and Copyright © Richard A. Sharma 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, copying, or storage by any means whatsoever including but not limited to electronic/digital means without written prior permission prohibited. Linking to individual photographs on this page prohibited.


Feat.

Gilad Atzmon - soprano & alto sax, clarinet
Frank Harrison - piano
Yaron Stavi - bass
Asaf Sirkis - drums
Romano Viazzani - accordion
Ovidu Fratila - violin



Date of Review: 2004/01/14



Photo of Gilad Atzmon, here on soprano, with Asaf Sirkis and Romano Viazzani

Gilad Atzmon, here on soprano, with Asaf Sirkis and Romano Viazzani

Photo of The charismatic Gilad Atzmon - 21st Century Jazz Legend
The charismatic Gilad Atzmon - 21st Century Jazz Legend
Photo of Yaron Stavi, bass, Gilad Atzmon, soprano sax, Asaf Sirkis, drums, Romano Viazzani, accordion
Yaron Stavi, bass, Gilad Atzmon, soprano sax, Asaf Sirkis, drums, Romano Viazzani, accordion


A 21st Century Jazz Legend - Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble


Getting to "The Pizza" early, we arrive in the middle of sound checks and rehearsal. Gilad Atzmon is every bit the exacting perfectionist and running a tight but happy ship, finding time to joke and have a laugh with his band. He comes over to the bar to say hello. Atzmon is a gentle, warm and charismatic if somewhat shy man, immensely likeable and charming. He's had a phone call from the Pizza's management that afternoon. No more verbal political comments in the show, as he later also tells the audience. It's a shame to encounter such censorship, it bodes ill for society as a whole, but the mighty Mammon rules and one prematurely vacated table could result in loss of revenue... Returning to the stage, Atzmon makes a final few checks before the band takes a break and the doors open.

The Pizza Express Jazz Club fills up quickly to pretty much capacity. The dining ritual, if one can call it that, takes its course, while a few late arrivals seem to fill every last remaining seat. Pizza's not everyone's idea of a dining experience, certainly not ours, so we pass and stick to liquid refreshments, waiting for the frenzy and attendant general ding to die down and the real "meat" course to be served on stage.

At last, Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble are introduced and take their places. In addition to the core quartet of Gilad Atzmon, tonight on soprano, alto, and clarinet, Frank Harrison on piano, Yaron Stavi on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums, Atzmon has augmented the Orient House Ensemble with Romano Viazzani on accordion and Ovidu Fratila on violin. They explore both new material for a new album in the autumn, much of it as yet untitled, as well as revisit material from last year's sensational and justly acclaimed BBC Jazz Award-winning Exile and earlier albums.


Photo of Gilad Atzmon
Gilad Atzmon, here on alto - genius reminiscent of both Bird and 'Trane

Equally justly acclaimed as one of, if not the greatest, reed virtuosos of our time as well as as one of the most accomplished and original forces in world jazz, rightly feted as the John Coltrane of our time and as probably the greatest bop improviser since Charlie Parker himself, the improbably versatile and well-rounded Gilad Atzmon is in top form, and so are the rest of the Orient House Ensemble. With a reputation for always memorable live performances, tonight's performance by Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble proves exceptional. It is a lot more than memorable, it is sensational, an experience, one of those rare occasions when music and musicians transcend into something higher. Always unstoppably inventive, Atzmon seems even more inventive than ever, if such a thing were possible. More downright adventurous even than usual too, moving sleekly, elegantly and effortlessly between idioms - sometimes within the same piece -, from blistering bop improvs on steroids to lyrical, flowing, rhapsodic improvs, to fierce, emotive Coltrane-esque "rants", and back again, from swing, bop, post-bop and standards material to Middle Eastern and originals, and all almost at the drop of a hat. Atzmon takes chances, lots, but always makes them pay off. He is exciting, even dangerous, and always dazzling.

Photo of Frank Harrison
Frank Harrison

All the while, the OHE keep up brilliantly with Atzmon, and it's easy to understand why Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble are fast gaining legendary status. As brilliantly inventive and virtuosic a leader as Gilad Atzmon comes along but rarely, but equally, few such brilliant leaders have had as tight and virtuosic, as well as responsive and creative in their own right an ensemble as the OHE. Together, Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble are as devastating as a thermo-nuclear blast. The music is driven, Atzmon is driven, the OHE are driven. Atzmon and his music are subversive, beguiling, witty, charming, even haunting, bursting at the seams with energy, with life, and with all life's pains as well as joys. This music doesn't come from a sax or a clarinet, or whatever, it merely passes through the instruments, and instead comes from deep within. There is so much fire, so much anger and deep frustration driving Gilad Atzmon's music, yet, there is also much tenderness, affection, even love. A deep spirituality pervades it all.

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Photo of Gilad Atzmon on alto
Gilad Atzmon on alto





Photo of Yaron Stavi
Yaron Stavi





Photo of Asaf Sirkis
Asaf Sirkis





Photo of Romano Viazzani
Romano Viazzani
Photo of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
Photo of Gilad Atzmon on soprano
Gilad Atzmon on soprano


Photo of Yaron Stavi
Yaron Stavi

Photo of Ovidu Fratila
Ovidu Fratila

Photo of Gilad Atzmon - clarinet master like no other in over a generation
Gilad Atzmon - clarinet master like no other in over a generation



Two slow, rhapsodic numbers have Atzmon's singing, melodic imrovs soaring above Stavi's subtle bass, to be picked up and echoed sublimely by the impossibly young and improbably gifted Frank Harrison's exquisite piano, all to the gentle, occasionally brightly sparkling tides of Asaf Sirkis' brilliant trap work. A new arrangement of the 20th Century medley, first heard on the Nostalgico album, is even more striking than before, sensitive and full of charm and biting wit, and completely surreal in the finest sense, ending in a pained Lili Marlen. An up-tempo, almost Monk-ish number, starts squarely on the beat only to shift to a fast swing, with Gilad Atzmon's alto soaring in a Bird-like improv above Yaron Stavi's driving, almost relentless bass. Another new original incorporates brief quotes from Ravel's Bolero, with Atzmon on clarinet here. Yet another new piece is based on an Israeli children's song. There's a very original, highly personal version of My Funny Valentine, again on clarinet. And of course, there's Jenin, from last year's Exile album. Its intensity is almost unbearable, the pain nearly overwhelming but for the gentle relief of Atzmon's lyricism. And more.

Photo of Romano Viazzani, Ovidu Fratila
Romano Viazzani, Ovidu Fratila

The ensemble playing and Atzmon's and everybody else's solos are unforgettable. The interplay and trading-off among the players is such as you won't hear too often elsewhere and is as breathtaking as Gilad Atzmon's improvs themselves. Frank Harrison, despite his young years, is often almost frighteningly reminiscent of Art Tatum at the height of his powers. Asaf Sirkis' drum genius sparkles, his discipline is as intimidating as his enthusiasm is infectious. Bassist Yaron Stavi, jovial as well as sensitive, provides the glue in a very distinctive style. Accordionist Romano Viazzani and violinist Ovidu Fratila fit in perfectly and pull their weight, and excellently so. There is some wonderful dialogue between Atzmon's soprano and clarinet and Fratila's violin, with Atzmon often imitating Fratila's violin in such an almost improbably effective manner as you're ever likely to hear. Gilad Atzmon is by turns furious and tender, bullying and romantic, always the total, supreme master. His occasional banter with the crowd is relaxed, charming and witty, he exudes winning charisma.

Photo of Gilad Atzmon on soprano, with Frank Harrison, piano
Gilad Atzmon on soprano, with Frank Harrison, piano

All the OHE very obviously enjoy playing together enormously, they're having a good time, and so are the audience.

The crowd is in awe and, apart from spontaneous bursts of raucous applause and shouts and whistles of enthusiasm, almost unusually attentive. At the end, an encore is demanded most vociferously and of course received.

What of the lack of Atzmon's usual political banter? Does it really matter? I think not. Gilad Atzmon's music is eloquent enough to carry whatever message he wishes to impart. If the pain of Jenin didn't tear you apart, you'd probably never get it anyway, no matter how many clever words it's put into.

If you've been lucky enough to have been around and seen Bird and 'Trane live, there's no better way to experience that sheer excitement again than going to see Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble. If you missed Bird and 'Trane, here's your chance to discover what that excitement was and what it was all about. Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble are the first great 21st century jazz legend.

(For forthcoming Gilad Atzmon dates check the calendar page.)

 

© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

Photo of Gilad Atzmon on clarinet, with Yaron Stavi, bass
Gilad Atzmon on clarinet, with Yaron Stavi, bass

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