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Shauli Einav: Opus One

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The second leader project by Israeli saxophonist Shauli Einav, an NYC city resident since 2008 and a year shy of 30, attests to his immersion in the bebop tradition while revealing a fresh and original voice. Accompanied by a formidable, tight-knit group consisting of pianist Shai Maestro, trombonist Andy Hunter, bassist Joseph Lepore and drummer Johnathan Blake, Einav presents eight original compositions marked by a sense of urgency and relentless swing. He also includes an innovative rendition of a timeless Israeli folksong.

Einav invokes his homeland in the choice of song titles and subject matter, and in the moods inhabiting the soundscapes of his music-from the somber, conflicting and tragic to the purely inspiring and uplifting-sometimes within the same composition. “Jerusalem Theme” opens with a driving tempo and playful interplay between Einav and Hunter, leading into a soft, catchy melody. Sax and bone continue to duke it out throughout the tune in varying degrees of intensity, Maestro’s solo on electric Nord keyboard reflecting the city’s progressive dimension. “Kavana” (Hebrew for “intention”) is another vigorous postbop vehicle; “Naama,” a ballad dedicated to Einav’s wife, illustrates Einav’s warm, tender tone, which is complemented by Blake’s elegant brushwork.

The hard-swinging “The Damelin” features a scorching Hunter solo and a rousing Maestro-Blake exchange. Einav’s creative reworking of “Hayu Leilot” brings this ’40s classic into the present, the statement of its melancholy melody shifting into vibrant, pulsating group interplay. These intricate, harmonically rich compositions offer the skilled and soulful leader, as well as his bandmates, ample space to shine.

Originally Published