Omer Avital has been called the “Israeli Mingus,” and it fits. He is a prodigious bassist, a creative composer and a proactive bandleader who has led or co-led 16 albums. His strong body of work is characterized by an organic interaction between his Middle Eastern roots and his current environment of hardcore New York street bop.
Avital has some new pursuits. He has opened Wilson Live, an intimate performance space and recording studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He has a new label, Zamzama, and a new band, Qantar, with four hot young Israeli expatriates. All three ventures come together for New York Paradox. It was recorded at Brooklyn’s Wilson Live, with “no separation, no edits, no fixes.” Qantar has Asaf Yuria and Alexander Levin on saxophones, Eden Ladin on piano and Ofri Nehemya on drums. They execute Avital’s catchy, careening compositions with a special blend of wild abandon and lock-step precision. Avital swears they “don’t use charts but rather learn the music by heart and create the arrangements on the spot.” It is exhilarating when boisterous melodies recur, horn backgrounds blast, riffs kick and complex counterpoint converges, all “on the spot.”
The most ambitious piece is the long-form “Just Like the River Flows,” a nine-minute suite. Even the title track, a vivid musical metaphor for the chaos of life in New York, feels carefully organized. Yet the whirling Mediterranean momentums are ecstatic and passionate solos fly free. Ladin, a pianist to watch, combines thrust with impressionism. Avital likes bands with multiple tenor saxophone front lines. (One of his early sextets had four.) Yuria and Levin are a powerhouse tandem, whether collaborating for rich blends within the ensemble (“Bushwick After Dark”) or emerging individually and burning (“Today’s Blues”).
Qantar is a band with personality. Its personality is to sound friendly while kicking your ass.
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