Review: Gilad Atzmon, The Whistle Blower




The Israeli-born, British-domiciled Atzmon leads his Orient House Ensemble through a compelling range of both rhythmically strong and melodically distinctive material

GILAD ATZMON & THE ORIENT HOUSE ENSEMBLE
THE WHISTLE BLOWER

(2) Gaza Mon Amour; (1) Forever; The Romantic Church; Let Us Pray; The Song; To Be Free; For Moana; (2) The Whistle Blower (48.00)
(1) Gilad Atzmon (as, ss, cl, acn, g, v); Frank Harrison (p, kyb, v); Yaron Stavi (b, elb, v); Chris Higginbotham (d, v). (2) as (1) plus Tali Azmon (v); Antonio Feola (v). London, 3 & 4 September 2014.
Fanfare Jazz 1501
*****

A strong post-bop player who holds a masters degree in philosophy – and a complex and often controversial figure whose 2011 book The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics precipitated considerable (and diversely considered) discussion – the Israeli-born, British-domiciled Atzmon leads his Orient House Ensemble through a compelling range of both rhythmically strong and melodically distinctive material on this, their eighth album to date.

Released on Atzmon’s own Fanfare label, the music reveals the existentialist aura of much of Parker’s ballad playing (Forever, Church) to be as contemporary in import as the spiritual drive of side-slipping, middle-to-late Coltrane (Gaza Mon Amour, Pray, Free). Such matters of spiritual quest sit well with affecting, bitter-sweet meditations on what the late Philip Larkin considered the ultimate joy, namely to be here “in the flesh”: one imagines that the poet – taken to task by small-minded puritans for his passing interest in soft porn – would have approved of the dedication of the soulful, beautifully paced ballad Moana to the late Italian porn star and politician Moana Pozzi.

It’s quite a trip from the opening Middle Eastern ululations of the strongly driving Gaza to the stately dance measures and accordion musings of the folkish Song but somehow everything here – including the French-pop spoofs of the brief, concluding title track – gells to give a finely focused picture of a man who, for all his complexity, describes himself in his poetically taut sleeve-notes as “an avid admirer of simplicity and transparency”. The bebop-fired Atzmon said once that his albums needed to be “less manic”. For all the intensity of much of this music, that is exactly what he has achieved here, to telling effect.

Michael Tucker


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