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Omer Avital Quintet: Live at Smalls

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The ever-evolving groups led by Israeli-born, NYC-based bassist Omer Avital are entwined with the institution that is Smalls. A member of the now-legendary Jason Lindner Big Band, its seven-year Smalls residency serving as a hotbed for a host of up-and-coming musicians, Avital co-led the Smalls jam session for a time, in addition to his own ensembles. This live album captures his longstanding collaboration with Lindner, trumpeter Avishai Cohen (also a member of Lindner’s Big Band), saxophonist Joel Frahm and drummer Johnathan Blake.

Avital’s tight-knit quintet blazes through a set of his captivating originals, opening with the doleful yet hopeful “Theme for a Brighter Future.” At 14:25, “Magic Carpet,” driven by a North African gnawa beat, offers everyone plenty of room to shine, with some wonderful interaction between Cohen and Frahm and a scorching solo by Lindner. “One” draws on Avital’s Middle Eastern heritage, and “Bass Intro to Anthem to Life” illustrates the multifaceted nature of Avital’s sound and the broad range of textures and moods he draws from his bass-from bluesy melancholy to classical and Arabic hues. The soul-stirring “Anthem to Life” is infused with a deep gospel feeling, while the closing “(Just Some) Smalls Time Shit” rides a rock vibe, the band and audience joining Avital’s durable vocals.

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