Miri Ben-Ari: Sahara

On her debut release, classically trained violinist Miri Ben-Ari is joined by guitarist Mark Whitfield, percussionist Valtinho Anastacio, keyboardist, programmer, and producer, Ohad, bassist Boris Cozlov, and drummer Steve Hass. The nine tunes range from the disco-like “Rejoice,” to the Betty Carter tribute, “Room 511.” Ben-Ari’s violin intro on this number has a bluegrass feel, and Whitfield’s guitar licks reinforce the notion, while keeping to a very swinging, jazzy mood. There’s some nice trading between the two. Whitfield also solos on “The Scrapper,” “Dream,” and “Easy Now.” You’re right to think those last two titles suggest a new age, smooth jazz orientation. Ben-Ari, who studied with Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern, has plenty of chops, and feeling too. Now, if only her material were less “sweet” [the result of producer Ohad’s programming], and closer to what she plays on the Debriano release.