The currently latest effort from Israeli world-class free-jazz/avant-garde guru Albert Beger takes the form of the Albert Beger Electroacoustic Band's Peacemaker, released just over four months ago on the Anova Music label.
Following on from 2008's Big Mother (with The New Albert Beger Quartet), Peacemaker is another big concept album from Beger. Where the former concerned itself with the big external theme of the environment, the latter is a journey into the inner self. The search for inner peace is Beger's quest with Peacemaker. This deeply spiritual musician certainly has found it for himself it would appear, and Beger is encouraging each and every one of us to go on this quest for ourselves, to find our own inner peace. Quite right, too. It is only when we find peace within ourselves, and with ourselves, that we can hope to create a better world.
With Peacemaker, Beger goes right to the root of all art, in a manner of speaking. Is it not, after all, the dissatisfaction with the world and all its ugliness and the desire to help bring about a better world that drives all art and artists? Here, Beger finds his own refuge of inner peace from which he creates something of beauty and power in that larger quest. Like many great musicians before him, he seems to have come to the realisation that music - and beauty - is not the messenger, but the message itself. In so doing, Beger's music has reached a whole new level. Where Big Mother was still attempting to be a messenger, Peacemaker has become the message.
Peacemaker is essentially a suite in six parts. Compositionally, it follows a broad, thematic structure that harkens back to Beger's early prog-rock influences, particularly the great Robert Wyatt and Soft Machine, although in a much more subdued and subtle manner than the sometimes over-dramatic efforts of prog-rock.
A first for Albert Beger here is the inclusion of electronics, by Avi Elbaz, in this new quintet's sonic palette. But their use is generally subtle, never overwhelming or intrusive, and they make a valid contribution to the sound and the music. Together with the sometimes distorted electric guitar of Ido Bukelman, they mainly come to represent the more fractious aspects of life. The bass of Assaf Hakimi and Dan Benedikt's drums and percussion provide a rock-solid grounding that binds the former and Beger's soprano and tenor that journey through this quest with Beger's usual passion as well as lyricism as he overcomes the negative emotions that stand in the way of finding this inner peace.
Beger projects a focused self that fully realises this inner peace and himself as the music moves along. Highly symbolic of this spiritual journey is also the fourth track in particular, Nigun, which references this deeply spiritual Hassidic form of wordless song and also utilises distorted samples of a Jewish prayer in its opening. Beger's path along this journey is not always a smooth one; on the contrary, he has to find his way through a variety of obstructions that often take on a quite violent character, reflective of the reality that we all encounter and are threatened to be subsumed by.
What emerges in Peacemaker is a work of beauty that is just sublime. This is not a description that easily attaches itself to the avant-garde or free jazz, nor very often, but Beger seems to manage this almost effortlessly. The music is, as ever with Beger, still remarkably and beautifully accessible. The real challenge that he issues to the listener is to follow his quest, become a better person within himself, and make a difference.
Peacemaker sees Beger at his creative very finest yet. His strong, innovative compositions are fully matched by his equally inventive improvs, both drawn from inspiration and intuition, from deep within.
Wanting in neither consistency nor coherence, Peacemaker, more than being just compelling is totally mesmerising and all-absorbing. This album's attraction and attractiveness only grow with repeated listening, rather than diminish. Its intensity keeps one as though riveted to the spot.
The Albert Beger Electroacoustic Band's Peacemaker is, needless to say, way beyond essential in any kind of avant-garde, free jazz or contemporary jazz collection. It's one of those real 'must have' albums for almost anybody with a truly deeper interest in jazz.
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