Alon Yavnai was born in Israel, studied classical music at Givatayim Conservatory in Tel Aviv and jazz at Berklee in Boston, and played for six years with Paquito D’Rivera. Travel Notes is his recording debut as a leader. There are solo pieces and also trio pieces with bassist Omer Avital and Jamie Haddad, the latter playing a variety of percussion instruments instead of a drum kit.
Yavnai’s diverse background is occasionally audible here, in the Middle Eastern atmosphere of the 12/8 title track, and the Cape Verdean rhythms of “Ilha B’nit.” But the album’s aesthetic is dominated by Israeli traditional melodies.
Travel Notes is genuinely pretty. Yavnai celebrates the sweet, pristine, elemental melodicism found in Israeli songs. His portrayals are patient and sincere, but lacking in tension and spontaneity. They rarely feel like they are pushing toward the discovery of new ideas. Their soft, insistent repetitions retreat into a pale, pleasant, lulling ambient background. Most of the tunes are Yavnai originals. One that isn’t, by Yoel Angel, is called “Numi Numi,” which means “Sleep Sleep.” It would have been a more fitting title for this somnolent album than Travel Notes.