REVIEW: ‘Close to Home’ – Ari Erev

EVER THE MELODICIST and bestower of hope and light, Israeli pianist Ari Erev releases Close to Home, the follow-up to 2016 album Flow.

Continuing the configuration of piano trio augmented by soprano saxophone and percussion (plus, on this occasion, flute), Erev again presents a considerable breadth of original composition and reinterpretation – over 70 minutes, in fact. Within this music is a beauty which clearly amplifies its overarching title, referencing his deep emotions for family, friends and familiar places – a sentiment which has been pulled into sharp relief for so many, over the past year or so.

The pianist’s deliberate yet rubato expression can sometimes be reminiscent of Abdullah Ibrahim – there’s a warmth and a focus there that reflects both his experience and this album’s theme. In addition, the subtly detuned tone of his instrument creates a ‘chamber’ aura of intimate recital or jazz bar, even with occasional traces of traditional music hall. However you might define this ensemble’s collective sound, it’s a congenial blend.

Curiously, from a purely personal perspective, the opening two numbers – Israeli Story and Playground – don’t necessarily foretell the elegance and interest of the hour which then follows them. But then, immediately in Childhood Scenes, is found the most dreamy, slightly nostalgic trio waltz – an example of how Erev’s originally-stated themes frequently have a recollective dimension, suggesting they might also host a vocal lyric first heard many moons ago. Chipper Falling in Place crackles with Yuval Cohen’s soprano-led exuberance as bassist Assaf Hakimi and drummer Gasper Bertoncelj drive it forward with panache, while Old Friends’ chromatic figure possesses a tentative air. Another ruminative original, Saturday Coffee, features lithe sax improvisations, as well as posing a thought of how the richer timbres of tenor or baritone might also suit the pianist’s output. In Afar (for Tal), though, Cohen’s high register is gracefully interlaced with the flute of Hadar Noiberg, fashioning a particularly homely, trad-jazz-tinged dedication to Erev’s daughter.

In terms of other composers’ works, the emotive, Brazilian shades of Debora Gurgel’s Para Sempre (Forever) find greater mobility with Erev, accented by the percussion of Gilad Dobrecky; and the solid beat of Efraim Shamir’s Shi’ur Moledet (Homeland Class) – from successful Israeli pop band Kavaret – is significantly reworked as a melodramatic, almost silent-movie-styled episode whose percussion impetuously tugs the piano trio towards an excitable Latin groove. Keith Jarrett’s So Tender (known to many in his breezy recording with Gary Peacock and Jack De Johnette) is respectfully visited in a sparkling, bossa miniature; Olha Maria (Antonio Carlos Jobim) flows tenebrously; and Paul Simon’s evergreen Still Crazy After All These Years enjoys a pleasant, countrified outing. To close, Erev’s assuredly grooving Po (Here) displays a theme-tune quality, its bright, memorable melody expanded on by saxophone and piano.

At the heart of this recording and, indeed, Erev’s own pianistic delivery is a sense of both conviviality and gratitude; and his own compositional flair perhaps has the greatest appeal in this collection. Falling in Place is certainly an irresistible, tightly executed, good-time gem!

Released on 8 June 2021, Close to Home is available at Bandcamp.

 

Ari Erev piano
Assaf Hakimi double bass, bass guitar
Gasper Bertoncelj drums
with
Yuval Cohen soprano saxophone
Hadar Noiberg flute
Gilad Dobrecky percussion

arierev.com

(2021)

‘Flow’ – Ari Erev

Flow

THE MANY FACETS of contemporary jazz surprise and delight with their rich diversity; often the music can be groundbreaking, challenging, even abstruse. But once in a while, an artist shines with the unalloyed beauty, accessibility and blitheness of their approach.

Tel-Aviv-based pianist/composer Ari Erev’s third album completes a trilogy of themed releases. Following albums About Time and A Handful of Changes, new recording Flow explores the idea, as Erev explains, that “music consists of numerous different streams that have the same general direction and – especially with improvisation – never exactly repeat themselves”; another analogy is the “state of mind during which one is immersed in a continuous act of doing something, such as learning or creating, usually without even noticing the passage of time.”

Joining him throughout this session of mostly original compositions are Eli Magen (double bass) and Ron Almog (drums), whilst also adding to the Latin fervour of a number of tracks are soprano saxophonist Yuval Cohen (brother of trumpeter Avishai) and percussionist Gilad Dobrecky. Erev cites Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba as an early influence, and his lyrical ways with melody and rhythm seem charmingly imbued with the festal expressions and strong musical identities of, say, Mexico, the Caribbean and South Africa.

Sunshiny samba tune Playful Moments is typical of the album’s relaxed vein, as Yuval Cohen’s soprano sax brightly expounds on Erev’s compositional mastery; and Jumping in the Water‘s memorable, chromatically-descending melodies possess a quiet sophistication – a fine, sonorous groove from Erev and bassist Magen, illuminated by Dobrecky’s glistening percussion. In trio format, the pianist’s writing is at least as inviting – gently-waltzing title track Flow pictorialises the album art/theme so clearly, and the subtle, tripping audacity of Erev’s modal explorations are a joy.

Amongst the pleasant fluidity of such tracks, it’s these details which catch the ear. What the Heart Sees resembles a much-loved standard, with Erev and Cohen each elaborating on its gently balladic melody; the delicate instrumental interplay in Debora Gurgel’s Domingo, across six minutes, is exquisite (Magen’s buoyant, cantabile momentum a noticeable feature); and the soprano tune in Treasures in Havana‘s cool, lilting, Cuban bossa is just as easily imaginable with tender, vocalised lyrics.

Latin Currents swirls and eddies excitedly to its vibrant sax and percussion animation; unexpectedly Mexican-tinged Gan Ha-Shikmim (The Sycamore Garden) – an old Israeli song – finds Erev as eloquent as ever in lush chordal sequences and whispy, high piano extemporisation; Continuance‘s bouncing, unison piano-and-bass riffs are airily optimistic; and the clarity of Erev’s arrangement of Fred Hersch’s Endless Stars, which closes the album, encapsulates the convivial atmospheres to be found across these sixty-eight minutes of joyous music.

Flow certainly seems to catch the summertime mood with finesse. Available as a digital download from Bandcamp and iTunes, or as CD from Amazon, CD Baby, etc.

 

Ari Erev piano
Eli Magen double bass
Ron Almog drums
with
Yuval Cohen soprano sax (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10)
Gilad Dobrecky percussion (tracks 1, 3, 5 and 10)

arierev.com

Acum – 889211-66857-1 (2016)