Sunday, March 29, 2020

Oded Tzur - Here Be Dragons (ECM, 2020)

Tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur's studies of Indian music and raga have influenced the tone and approach he has developed on his instrument. Long round melodic lines of sound are aided by the presence of an excellent band, consisting of Nitai Hershkovits on piano, Petros Klampanis on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums, and the group develops a well articulated sense of narrative flow. "Here Be Dragons" opens the album in a very mellow and spacious fashion, with a gradual buildup by the group and release to a fine bass solo with slight piano comping. Tzur develops long and emotionally longing lines of saxophone, breathy and gentle for the remainder of the track. Soft saxophone and piano with brushed percussion in open space lay the foundation for "To Hold Your Hand." Deft brushwork with restrained bass and piano are hallmarks of the rhythm section feature. Soft saxophone returns, weaving around the other instruments, creating an improvisation for the full group as the performance develops further. "20 Years" continues the meditative groove, with slow wafting sounds of saxophone and light touch piano developing at a glacial pace, building an elegiac feeling, with gentle droplets of piano and brushed drums. Soft and lilting saxophone reenters wafting above the rhythm team, gradually concluding with a mild and tender manner. The flow of the album is broken by three brief solo features, "Miniature 1, 2 and 3" short pieces for piano, bass and saxophone respectively. "The Dream" comes as a surprise,with the full band playing at a much more robust clip and a greater sense of urgency. Rippling piano playing along with forward moving bass and drums pushes ahead as the leader lays out. Tzur returns to engage with the bass and drums at a speed that is much more appealing. The band finishes the album with a version of the standard "Can't Help Falling in Love" which returns to the slow and quiet pace of their earlier performances. This performance is very melodic with the slow and stately tempo saxophone and piano are featured, melody is repeated over and over to the end. Here Be Dragons

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