Once again Gilad Atzmon has produced a remarkable album that shades the boundaries between jazz and world music. The core Ensemble is joined by guests including, most notably, Palestinian singer Reem Kelani, whose astonishingly powerful and evocative vocals dominate the first two tracks. Atzmon puts his talents as composer and arranger to masterful use, drawing inspiration from middle-eastern melodies and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to deliver an album charged with an emotive intensity that moves through suggestions of sorrow and joy, anger and peace. As always Atzmon's own performances on clarinet, alto and soprano saxes are of virtuoso standard with occasional echoes of Coltrane amongst the eastern inflections. Frank Harrison provides swirling soundscapes on piano and the drum and bass paring of Asaf Sirkis and Yaron Stavi delivers a sensitive, intuitive, yet driving rhythmic backdrop. It's a tribute to Atzmon's skills as band leader that the many guests (all, like most of the band, exiles either by choice or compulsion) contribute to the overall effect without being intrusive. If you enjoyed the previous Orient House recordings or are looking for something exploring new directions in jazz, look no further than this truly memorable album. Brilliant, buy it now!
I am surprised there are so few reviews for an album that I have owned and admired for more than ten years. Orient House Ensemble started circa 1999 with Brits Frank Harrison (p) and Oli Hayhurst (b) and Israelis (now Britons) Gilad Atzmon (leader, reeds) and Asaf Sirkis (d). After two albums, Hayhurst was replaced by Israeli bass player Yaron Stavi.(although no longer a formal group I saw all four live just this last weekend, May 2014). For this third OHE album the group is augmented by a few European / Israeli Palestinian musicians.
The flavour of this album is more like the first CD (Orient House) in as much the music is very eastern European / Middle Eastern in flavour, but make no mistake this isn't "World Music" (of course, it is!) but has all the qualities of jazz.
This album, appropriately entitled "Exile" since all but Frank Harrison find themselves in a foreign land, is an unashamed protest album trying to bring to the notice of the world the suffering of Palestinians. Orient House was the HQ of the PLO. Jenin, a Palestinian refugee camp devastated by the Israeli Army in 2002. Although entertaining and inspiring music it is first and foremost a political act (like albums made by Max Roach or Charles Mingus circa 1960).
There is an excellent description of the music on this website, and it is no accident that it was the BBC jazz record of the year 2003. It might be 2014 now; the music is as pertinent today as when recorded. Well worth listening to.
This (rightly) highly acclaimed 2003 album from the UK’s finest current 'adopted’ jazz player (and one-time Blockheads member) Gilad Atzmon is theme-wise shot through with the man’s passionately held political convictions re. Palestine, but (regardless of one’s opinions of Atzmon’s politics) provides some of the most invigorating and original music of the genre that I have heard in the last couple of decades. Exile is redolent (unsurprisingly) with Middle-Eastern influences, sounds and rhythms – something which, for me at least, makes for a refreshingly original sound-scape.
Al-Quds is probably the album’s magnum opus, a mix of a (typically) infectious 'Atzmon ditty’ but overlaid with some of the most spectacular musical pyrotechnics you will hear anywhere, with each of Atzmon, Frank Harrison’s piano and Asaf Sirkis’ drumming getting somewhere close to emulating the quartet’s stunning live sound and presence. The catchy 'Middle Eastern-influenced’ rhythm and melody is then replicated in spades on each of Ouds and La Côte Méditerranée. Jenin, on the other hand, is a simply sublime ballad, with Atzmon on soprano sax, and whose level of engagement and emotional intensity is accentuated by Atzmon’s account (in the sleeve notes) of the song’s inspiration (a refugee camp). Similarly, Atzmon’s arrangement of the traditional album title tune is a hauntingly moody affair and another highlight.
Even the (for me) less immediate tunes here, such as album opener (and traditional tune) Dal-Ouna On The Return with some nicely quirky playing from Gilad, plus Reem Kelani’s impassioned vocals, and Orient House, with Atzmon on shabbaabeh flute eventually grow in appeal over time. Atzmon then changes pace totally (and probably ironically) with album closer Epilogue, a highly infectious piece of 'lounge jazz’, featuring Marcel Mamaliga’s violin and Romano Viazzani’s accordion.
Exile comes highly recommended as does a trip to see live this most dynamic, skilful and witty of current jazz players.
Loosely this album would probably be filed under "Jazz crossover", but there any resemblance to Jamie Cullum packs its bags and flees on a powerful motorbike. The intensity of the music, particularly Atzmon's own playing, makes your hair, tie and scarf stream out behind you like that guy in those 1980's Maxell cassette commercials (or was it BASF? Whatever). There are wonderful additions from the guest musicians too. There is virtuosity and raw passion here that you rarely find in these anodysed times - not surprising given the heritage of the personnel involved in the project. Dinner jazz it isn't, but it is worth persevering with.
Well worth a listen if you haven't come across this bunch before. Edgy, clever, superb musicianship throughout, intriguing and compelling - and if you approve of Gilad's political views, you'll like this as it permeates the music.....