April 2002

Omer Avital Group
Think With Your Heart
Fresh Sound New Talent

This is not for the faint of heart or the narrow of mind. This is a musical journey meant to open your ears to a highly personal concept of chamber jazz: four to six reeds, colors from flute to bass clarinet, plus a percussionist and bassist. The bassist, Israeli-born Avital, is the engine that drives the combo, provides the colorful, rhythmically vital charts and shouts his approval throughout.

Don't make comparisons with the inevitable: Avital is not a Kosher Mingus. He's a highly cerebral original, adding his Moroccan-Yemenite heritage to the mix, which translates to unfamiliar modal harmonies and time signatures that do not encourage dancing. But don't be misled into thinking Avital's music lacks tonality; it is solidly tone-centered.

Focus on Jay Collins' solo efforts on the only non-Avital tune, "Stella by Starlight"; listen to Jimmy Greene's soprano sax on "Flow," with its harmonic hints of "Giant Steps"; appreciate the Middle Eastern filigrees and gyrations as nay flutist Joshua Levitt takes everyone to "Andaluz" and "Marrakesh," which includes some culturally correct hand-clapping. You may hear shades of Coltrane on "The Journey Home," thanks to its modal harmonies; you will also hear Trane in the sizzling work of altoist Myron Walden, who positively sizzles on "Marrakesh."

Enjoy the hyperactive drumming split between Daniel Freedman and Marlon Browden. Above all, listen to the virtuosic bass work of Avital. He's the frenetic connective tissue, the gap-filler, the inspiration for the "fresh sounds." In other words, listen with your heart.

Originally published in April 2002

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