Like so many musicians from Israel who have emigrated to the United States in recent years, Yaniv Taubenhouse sounds schooled. He is sophisticated in his management of melodic structures and chord changes and, especially, meters. His formalism and discipline reflect his classical training. His concept of the piano trio format is thoroughly contemporary, as he provides primary roles for his bassist (Rick Rosato) and drummer (Jerad Lippi).
Yet Taubenhouse is, above all, a seductive pianist. He pursues lavish beauty unashamedly. For him, technical elements serve emotional, spiritual, and atmospheric purposes. The opening track, “Blue Forest,” is a three-note node of melody taken through myriad variations in small steps, with gently cycling chords beneath that are gradually overtaken by Rosato’s bass. The core motif sounds like a recurring aspiration, an outreach toward hope. “Blue Forest” becomes a ritual, elegiac and hypnotic. The third track, “Prayer,” has a similar aura of incantation.
Taubenhouse can cast a spell like Abdullah Ibrahim, but his energy is edgier. “Rush Hour Traffic” (a New York song) and “Sailing Over the Horizon” vividly portray forceful movement. He is also a bold free thinker as an interpreter of standards. He plays fast and loose with Cole Porter on “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” starting and stopping, reharmonizing, sending Rosato scurrying through it, appending his own epilogue. Monk’s “Boo Boo’s Birthday,” in a fitting tribute to its composer, has new hits in all the “wrong” places.
Roads closes with the title track and a return to the domain of intellectual romanticism where the album began. It’s a rapt ceremony based on a simple theme closely related to “Blue Forest” and “Prayer,” but further along in the journey.
Yaniv Taubenhouse: Remember his name. His present is intriguing. His future could be more so.