By frontloading his debut with some potent funk-fusion workouts, electric bassist Teymur Phell positions the record—and himself—as a chops shop. But as he moves deeper into the playlist, the Azerbaijan-born, Israeli-bred, New York-based up-and-comer expands his reach and outlook while showing us that brawn doesn’t define him. Whether a simple byproduct of song sequencing or the result of a shrewd master plan, that arc of development turns out to be a strong selling point for Phell’s first flight and a salient reminder about the strength of the album format in general.
Introductory offerings like the amped-up opener “Zero to Sixty” and punchy “Papano Kimono” leave no doubt as to this man’s technical gifts. On the former he sprints the voodoo down during the intro and marries his bass to Chad Lefkowitz-Brown’s tenor saxophone for a round of tricky unison lines, and throughout the latter he engages in some real business with drumming heavy Dennis Chambers. But beneath the fireworks there are serious wonders to observe right on the ground. Eschewing typical forms and patterns, Phell uses the foundations on those numbers, among others, to flesh out his polyglot persona. Easily recognizable stylistic markers are apparent throughout, but subtext and a world-wise slant give the music a truly unique identity.
A skillful trio featuring pianist/keyboardist Nitzan Gavrieli and drummer Lionel Cordew acts as the core for this project, but the guests turn out to be just as important. Flutist Itai Kriss adds a welcome dose of tropical cheer to “Worth the Wait,” guitarist Mike Stern seduces and singes on the bluesy “Unfinished Business,” and percussionist Daniel Sadownick spices the mix whenever he appears. With those notables in the house, and a few others (like the aforementioned Lefkowitz-Brown and Chambers) stopping in here and there, Phell manages to arrange a gathering that’s as inviting as it is dangerous.
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