Bassist and composer Omer Avital, one of the most celebrated and revered musicians on the global jazz scene, offers his current creative tour-de-force, New Song (on Motema Music). New Song, the follow up recording to Suite of The East, signifies a giant leap in Avital's quest to "mine the deep interconnections between jazz and the music of the Middle East and North Africa." (Jeff Potter, DownBeat Magazine, July 2013). Avital now celebrates the release at The Jazz Standard this January 13 & 15, 2015 with Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Joel Frahm on tenor saxophone, Yonathan Avishai on piano and Daniel Freedman on drums.
Upon Avital's arrival in New York City in 1992, the rapid growth of Israeli jazz was set in motion in a profound way. Avital quickly forged an indelible mark on the scene, mainly through his legendary performances at Smalls, where he lead one of the most celebrated groups of the time, a sextet with a front line onslaught of four saxophones (an early gem from this time in Avital's early days is the tune "Kentucky Girl", featured on the compilation, Jazz Underground: Live at Smalls,on Impulse!)."Years from now, when folks are remembering the early days of the West Village jazz haunt Smalls, bassist Omer Avital's name will be as synonymous with the club as Bill Evan's is with the Village Vanguard, and Thelonious Monk's is with the original Five Spot Café." - Time Out New York.
Avital went on to cast a wide net of influence in NYC and beyond with a consistently creative and prolific output (releasing nine albums of original music since 2001, and at least eight others as a co-leader), and a steady stream of influential live performances at the finest jazz venues and festivals around the world. Avital also recorded and toured with Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, Brian Blade, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Roy Haynes and many others. Avital has since been hailed by The Los Angeles Times as, "a pioneer in combining jazz with myriad world music elements," with The New York Times adding that, "Mr. Avital and his group are producing some of the most original music being heard in New York," and that, "outside Charles Mingus and the free-jazz bassist William Parker, such dramatic violence on the instrument is hard to come by."
In 2002, around the ten year anniversary of moving to New York, Avital returned to his native Israel, where he was the co-founder and musical director of the highly unique and successful group, Yemen Blues, as well as the New Jerusalem Orchestra, and involved in Israel's "piyut" scene (often collaborating with some of the legends of this genre, including Haim Louke, Aharom Amram, and others), to study classical European composition and Middle Eastern and North African Music. The bassist spent three years studying folk songs, dance rhythms and rituals, and these invigorated his imagination in the same way that jazz had sparked his passion before. He now looks to the East as well as to New York, toward the West as much as toward the Arab world, toward the solitude of the desert as much as the urban mêlée. The latest result of this extensive study is Avital's ambitious new recording, New Song, an electrifying, highly creative next step after the release of his previous recording, Suite of The East (released in April 2012 on Anzic Records).
The band on New Song is exemplary, and one that Avital has led for many years, featuring trumpeter Avishai Cohen ("I've been playing constantly with Avishai since 1999. We co-lead some groups together for a decade, and he has played in most of my bands and on most of my albums. Our musical chemistry was there from the first notes we ever played"); saxophonist Joel Frahm ("I've known Joel from my first days in NYC in the early '90s. We nicknamed him 'Soul Frahm' because he has such a warm, soulful sound. I absolutely love what he brings to my music"); pianist Yonathan Avishai ("there's no doubt that Yonathan is not only one of my favorite musicians, but someone who has been a great influence to me in recent years. He understands my compositions and his input elevates everything we play"); and drummer Daniel Freedman ("I've known Daniel for over twenty years. We became rhythm section mates and friends during the important early days of Smalls in the '90s, and shared the bandstand playing with the Jason Lindner Big Band and many others. His understanding of Middle Eastern and North African rhythms make it easier for me to bring my musical vision to life.") The esteemed journalist Peter Margasak said of the band (of their performance on Suite of The East) in The Chicago Reader, that, "They bring a plangent eloquence and easy rapport to the seven pieces, which alternate between delicate, soulful ballads and soaring, high-energy anthems and whose thick ensemble arrangements ratchet up the intensity with every chorus."
For Omer Avital, jazz is a music, and a medium, which has allowed him to honor his roots and delve into the culture of his homeland without limitations. With New Song, Avital, a true citizen of the jazz diaspora, makes his homeland resonate through his voice - a voice that no one could mistake for any other. His songs speak to us about his true self, and about the world of music in which he lives, and that is but one of their many glorious virtues.
Omer Avital - New Song
All compositions by Omer Avital (published by Abutbul Music, ASCAP)
1. Hafla, 2. New Song, 3. Tsafdin, 4. Avishkes, 5. Sabah El-Kheir (Good Morning), 6. New Middle East, 7. Maroc, 8. Ballad For a Friend, 9. Bedouin Roots, 10. Yemen Suite, 11. Small Time Shit
Omer Avital - bass/compositions, Avishai Cohen - trumpet, Joel Frahm - tenor saxophone, Yonathan Avishai - piano, Daniel Freedman - drums