AN OPENING GAMBOL through Henry Mancini’s The Days of Wine and Roses offers little indication as to what else lies behind the gatefold covers of Eyal Lovett’s double album Tales From a Forbidden Land.
Clearly stated as a trio recording (with double bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen and drummer Aidan Lowe), the Israeli pianist/composer also features the mellifluous, pedalled electric guitar hues of Gilad Hekselman in an absorbing programme of, predominantly, his own works. Lovett’s approach and use of instrumentation has a distintinctive aura – specifically, the influence of romantic classical piano (sometimes solo) coupled with sprightly, South-East Mediterranean rhythms and melodies, balanced with an introspective, heart-on-sleeve sensitivity which genuinely becomes enthralling.
Based in Berlin, and regularly touring European venues and festivals, Lovett describes these ‘tales’ as “an attempt to capture some aspects about the experience of being an Israeli artist living abroad”, and says it’s “also a metaphor, for each of us has our own ‘forbidden land’.” It’s an album of discovery, whose fascination never seems to wane (even across two discs); and listening-in feels like a personal, intimate response to the moods which unfold. Entry Point‘s dark, tentative steps over arco bass suggests an almost Tchaikovskian journey into the unknown, albeit with Middle Eastern piano and guitar inflections, whilst Odelya‘s lilting piano jazz acceptance prompts tremulant, gossamer echoes from Hekselman. The riffy bass definition of Daphna Eilat’s A Song For a Beloved Land is more buoyant – sunny, even – with Lowe’s percussion shaping its affable melodies (this band’s sense of control and expression is immaculate); and Hope Without Borders combines lush chordal and melodic piano with a spirited, unified momentum (the inspired connection between trio and guitarist especially reinforced here).
Wistful piano mazurka, Japanese Tale, is typical of the continual thread of emotion, its delicate waltz time brightening to include Hekselman’s pinpoint improvisations; and the more whimsical grace notes of Little Ones relax into sustained Lisztian lyricism, inviting Dahl Knudsen’s sympathetic bass extemporisations (remarkably affecting). Bitter Sweet‘s discordant, major-minor waltz stays long in the memory, diverting along unexpected, textural and rhythmic avenues – perhaps that’s one of the secrets to both the originality and interest of Lovett’s music; and bluesy, crescendoing, Esbjörn Svensson-like Something Begins, Something Ends once again integrates Hekselman, this time in particularly gritty, pitch-bent majesty.
There are so many treasures here – and these eighty-four minutes have, over a period of time, repeatedly called me back to focus on their intricacies and their sincerity. At the moment, I wouldn’t stray far without this very special collection (and the trio’s 2013 debut release, Let Go – with Malte Schiller and Ramiro Olaciregui – offers more sublime beauty). Touring in 2017, a UK visit from the whole quartet would be warmly embraced.
Tales From a Forbidden Land is available, as CD or digital download, from Two Rivers Records at Bandcamp.
Videos: A Song For a Beloved Land and Japanese Tale.
Eyal Lovett piano, compositions, arrangements
Kenneth Dahl Knudsen double bass
Aidan Lowe drums
Gilad Hekselman electric guitar
Two Rivers Records – TRR-019 (2016)