Vancouver-based, Israeli-born guitarist-pianist-composer Itamar Erez conceived May Song during the tasking times of the Covid-19 lockdowns, and its recording at the local Monarch Studios in July 2021, marked for Erez an emergence «from darkness and doubt into lightness and joy». On this album, Erez focuses only on the piano, highlighting more polyrhythmic and layered textures than before. Erez is accompanied by long-time comrades from the local scene of Vancouver – double bass player Jeff Gammon and drummer Kevin Romain with guest, clarinetist François Houle.
May Song marks a growing evolution of Erez as a composer and improviser, who trust and enjoys the individual voices of his musicians. The opening piece «Chant» flirts with an Arabic mode – maqam – and suggests a sweet, cyclical melody that invites the listener to chant it alongside the musicians, The following «Hourglass» and «Catch Me If You Can» play both restlessly with a five-beat pulse, but while the first piece is open to individual and collective improvisations, the latter articulates enchanting and playful theme that stresses the seminal influence of Keith Jarrett on Erez.
The second half of the albumin is more contemplative. «You and Me» is a lyrical ballad that relies on the subtle groove of Gammon and Romain. The dramatic «March» alternates between the contemplative vibe of the previous piece and the bright and vivid clarinet solos of Houle. The title piece takes this contemplative vein into a more stoic and compassionate direction, with Erez and Houle articulating the most openly emotional and beautiful melody on this fine album. The last piece «Long Way Home» sketches a ballad with a meditative narrative that blooms into a dramatic one and highlights the nuanced interplay of Erez, Gammon and Romain.
Itamar Erez (p), François Houle (cl), Jeff Gammon (b), Kevin Romain (dr), Chris Gestrin (keys)