Released on Earsay Records in 2008, The New Albert Beger Quartet's Big Mother is Israeli Beger's second-most recent release. Albert Beger has now long been one of Israel's remarkably vibrant jazz scene's leading lights, and here this light shines brighter than ever.
Big Mother is aptly titled in more than one respect. Apart from referring, of course, to old 'Mother Earth,' the ecology and how man is threatening its very existence, everything about this album is big. The musical concept, and the music itself. Even the sound is often remarkably big for a quartet. And of the six tracks - all Beger originals - on Big Mother, five are very satisfyingly long and beefy.
In addition to Beger himself on tenor sax, The New Albert Beger Quartet features Aviran Ben Naim on piano, past collaborator, Israel's leading (non ex-pat) bassist Gabriel Mayer, and Yoav Zohar on drums. As a quartet, they seem remarkably well attuned to one another. The ensemble playing is outstanding, and the soloing exquisite. Ben Naim's ivories also need singling out for their excellence and sensitivity.
Over the years, Beger has travelled farther and farther along the free jazz and avant-garde road and has indisputably grown into one of its finest and truly world class exponents. Throughout this long journey, Beger has so far also managed to remain surprisingly, and delightfully, accessible, as is amply demonstrated on Big Mother. The deep spirituality of his music has also kept pace, which he again amply shows here, both in his playing and his strong and imaginative, inspired and inspirational compositions. It really is a huge pity that Beger, and the many other superb jazz musicians on the Israeli scene, are so relatively little known outside Israel - there is much talent there deserving of far wider, greater exposure and recognition.
Although concerning itself with a subject that is full of ugliness, Big Mother is an album that surprises with a great deal of beauty. It is distinguished by some very fine melodies, often complex harmonies, and solid rhythmic interest throughout. Beger's rich tenor ebbs and flows between the downright lyrical and the highly strung, deeply impassioned. His improvs are flowing and soaring, inventive and inspired. Both Ben Naim's excellent ivories and Mayer's superb bass, especially bowed, keep pace in their solos and are an equal delight. Zohar's traps deliver a finely-judged sensitivity and, together with Mayer's bass, a solid anchor.
Big Mother is a beautifully consistent album and (further) proof that free jazz or avant-garde jazz often work best within the bounds of a strong concept. Beyond compelling, it has a strangely mesmerising quality that does not wear off even after repeated listening. Big Mother is a real delight that touches something deep inside with its intensity and deeply spiritual nature.
Beyond essential in any avant-garde/free jazz collection, The New Albert Beger Quartet's Big Mother should also be in any good general contemporary jazz collection. Grab this while you can!
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