Albert Beger Quartet - This Life
Originally released on the Israeli NMC label in 1997, This Life is the Albert Beger Quartet's second album. In addition to saxophonist Albert Beger, the quartet features drum phenomenon Asaf Sirkis, now based in London and better known as the engine of the rhythm section of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble as well as the leader of his own trio, Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise, and keyboardist John Bostock and bassist Gabriel Meir.
The Albert Beger Quartet's This Life consists of eight Beger originals, all sound and excellently arranged. Albert Beger proves himself an outstanding saxman, with solid, even superb technique, a good voice, and an imaginative improviser. Keyboardist John Bostock also fully justifies his growing reputation. Drummer Asaf Sirkis amply demonstrates why he subsequently was able to quickly gain an outstanding reputation as probably Britain's finest jazz percussionist/drummer, with as inventive a sound palette as one could wish for and superbly judged backing and soloing that sparkle with brilliance. Bassist Gabriel Meir likewise amply supports his claim to his still growing reputation. Together, the Albert Beger Quartet makes for a formidable outfit, with solid, tight ensemble playing and excellent soloing. The music on This Life is strongly leaning towards post-bop and free jazz, with almost equally strong Middle Eastern influences. Uncommonly strong melodic content is cultivated throughout.
The opener of the Albert Beger Quartet's This Life takes the form of Passengers, a strongly Middle Eastern flavoured and Wayne Shorter inspired piece. Beger's improvs are fluid, often strongly melodious, responded to enthusiastically and imaginatively by Bostock's ivories. Sirkis' incredible time-keeping and bursts of imaginative percussive fireworks are sheer delight. Fishermen is a strongly evocative number with an almost Caribbean flavour with even the melodic structure somehow reminiscent of Calypso, while Albert Beger's tenor also here strongly reminds of Sonny Rollins at times. Good solid improvs abound all round on this jolly, cheerful piece. Staying up-beat, Winds likewise delights with beautifully flowing improvs supported beautifully by the fantastic soundscape of Asaf Sirkis' trap set. Turning to Chassidic influences, Hassidute is one of the most intensely spiritual pieces on this album, and Beger's tenor exudes a deeply spiritual sensuality. Purple House reminds of prog rock influences, and particularly Beger's improvs seem to recall Jimi Hendrix and Purple Rain in feel. Quietly reflective and even tender, Love amazes particularly with Sirkis' traps sounding almost belief-defyingly Middle Eastern, often reminiscent of the tombak. The rest of the quartet are no less elegant and tender, sophisticated and sensuous. DAO sees a finely judged gradual build-up of tension and suspense that resolves in a gentle, almost jolly groove only to be re-introduced in the final moments. At nearly twelve and a half minutes, the eponymous closer of the Albert Beger Quartet's This Life is the longest of the overall pleasantly substantial tracks on this album. A lively and sophisticated piece, at times reflective, it features extended solid improvs and haunting melodies.
This music remains wonderfully accessible as well as thoroughly consistent throughout. The Albert Beger Quartet's This Life thoroughly deserves a place in any comprehensive contemporary jazz collection and should be considered essential in any Israeli jazz collection. Unfortunately, it looks as if at the time of this review being written this album may be out of print, at least temporarily. (If anybody can get hold of it, it would probably be the helpful folks at Jewish Music Distribution UK.) This Life certainly deserves continued and wider distribution.
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