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Album review: 'New York Paradox'


Omer Avital’s Qantar

‘New York Paradox’

Zamzama Records and jazz&people

Out of the hundreds of concerts I’ve attended at the Rochester International Jazz Festival over the years, I can’t remember one as joyous as when Omer Avital’s band played Xerox Auditorium in 2015. Avital is an acoustic bassist, so, he has said, “I don’t play my melodies; the band is my instrument.” And what a fantastic instrument it is.

With Eden Ladin at the piano and keyboards, Alexander Levin and Asaf Yuria on saxophones and Ofri Nehemya playing drums, this unit is on fire. Like Avital, who has made Brooklyn his home for three decades, all four of his bandmates are Israeli transplants to the American jazz scene.

“New York Paradox” beautifully reflects the origins of Avital and his group. All of the tunes have unmistakably Mediterranean roots from a variety of cultures. While there are Sephardic Jewish melodies, there are also unmistakable Arabic and Andalusian strains coming through. All of the compositions are embellished by complex arrangements, but nothing is written down. This not only challenges every band member’s musical skills, it also assures a loose, wonderfully wild sound.

In today’s world, it’s getting increasingly difficult to use the term “infectious” in a positive way, but Avital’s up-tempo tunes “Just Like River Flows” and “Shabazi” are just so damn catchy. When things slow down for a tune like “Zohar Smiles,” Avital shows his ability to transfix the listener with a gorgeous ballad. “New York Parodox” has not left my music player since I got it. It’s the jazz album of the year for me so far.