Kinship is an affable assortment of buoyant bop and international folk music traditions. As with leader Uri Gurvich’s two previous discs (both on Tzadik), the album flexes the virtues of the ensemble’s cosmopolitan lineage—Gurvich the Israeli saxophonist, Argentinian pianist Leo Genovese, Bulgarian bassist Peter Slavov and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela.
Two saxophonists not on the disc have a pronounced influence on the proceedings. One is Joe Lovano, who has taught and/or played with every member of the quartet, and whose Us Five shares a musical template with Gurvich’s ensemble. Gurvich’s ability to unpredictably flit and dart through the phrasing on his (primarily alto) horn while retaining the integrity of the groove is likewise reminiscent of Lovano. The other totem of Kinship is John Coltrane and his orbit of cohorts. You hear it in the way “Song for Kate” (a tribute to Gurvich’s wife) resembles the sunny spunk of McCoy Tyner’s “Fly With the Wind”; in Gurvich’s serene, soaring soprano à la Coltrane on “Go Down Moses” (a spiritual marred by some very unsoulful chanting later in the cut); and in Genovese’s Alice Coltrane-like arpeggios on the title track.
After a decade together, the quartet is experienced enough to synthesize its disparate sources into a recognizable identity. “Dance of the Nanigos” is dedicated to the Abakuá dancers of Mela’s Cuba. “El Chubut” pays tribute to the pilgrimage to Israel of Argentinian Jews, with lyrics written and sung by Bernardo Palombo, the disc’s lone guest. “Twelve Tribes” utilizes Slavov’s Balkan heritage and, along with “Blue Nomad,” features Middle Eastern modes. “Hermetos” nods to the Brazilian percussionist-composer Hermeto Pascoal. And there are two songs from the 20th-century Israeli composer Sasha Argov. Even so, the program sounds more organic gumbo than hopscotch quilt.