It’s not so much their shared heritage that gives Third World Love’s fourth release its seamlessness—three-quarters of the band is originally from Israel; the drummer’s a New Yorker—but their shared vision. For New Blues, the quartet has reined in, tossing away much of the ornamentation that previously lurked around the periphery and emerging a more unified outfit. From their 2002 debut and through 2006’s Sketch of Tel Aviv, Third World Love (Avishai Cohen, trumpet and flugelhorn; Yonatan Avishai, piano; Omer Avital, bass; Daniel Freedman, drums) promoted a fired-up yet cozy admixture of jazz and global influences, hints of Middle Eastern melodies, Spanish accents and African rhythms unambiguously lying atop the bed they’d made.
Those shadings are certainly not disposed of but they’re more tightly integrated here. In Cohen’s elegiac ballad “Gigi et Amelie,” piano and trumpet engage in a slow build while Yonatan falls into a repeated chord sequence, tossing in dainty filigrees. Freedman casually accrues momentum, giving Cohen his cue to unlock and unwind, the other three only taking their rest when Avishai’s piano nimbly finds its way back to the main theme. Avital is the group’s secret weapon, though: Never ostentatious, he often hovers beneath the surface, holding it all down. He and Freedman coax Avishai’s stately blowing and Yonatan’s understated fills on the latter Cohen’s jumpy, forward-propelled title track and two Latinesque tunes, Avital’s “Joy of Life” and Freedman’s “La Camarona.”
Those pieces’ merry lyricism and easy-flowing groove typify the mood here, simultaneously melancholy and buoyant. Whether it can be chalked up to the musicians’ increased comfort within the Downtown NYC scene three of the four have inhabited for some time (Yonatan Avishai lives in France), or simply less of a need to internationalize so determinedly, New Blues is the first Third World Love album that sounds like a band that intends to stick around for awhile, not a bunch of guys kicking out some jams during vacation time from their regular gigs.