Unfortunately, there aren’t many places where an Israeli and Iranian musicians can collaborate as if it is the most natural thing to do today. Vancouver, Canada, is one of these civilized places where Israeli-Canadian guitarist-pianist Itamar Erez and Iranian-Canadian percussionist Hamin Honari play together on a regular basis. Both suggest that the delicate and sensual musical traditions of the Middle East are far more open and hospitable than the aggressive and hollow vision offered by the political rulers of this region,
Such an inclusive vision characterizes the new album of Erez, his fourth one as a leader, «Mi Alegria». Erez has honed his own version of world-jazz that expands the musical cultures and geographical borders of the Middle East with passionate flamenco and Latin music themes, the lyricism of Brazilian bluesy Choro and, obviously, the freedom of jazz. «Mi Alegria» distils and channels Erez’ eclectic, seminal influences and musical interests into a rich and highly personal language.
His musical vision is best captured on «Samai». Here Erez takes the well-known Turkish maqam «Samai», originally based on a delicate yet complex 10/8 metre, matches it with the dramatic, Andalusian-tinged muwashshah song form «Lama Bada» and spirals all into a playful, jazz melody, arranged for a classic jazz trio that nods to Chick Corea’s My Spanish Heart book of songs, with Erez playing the piano. You may recognize in this piece or in «Tides» the formative influence of the pioneer world-jazz quartet Oregon of other ECM artists as Oregon’s guitarist-pianist Ralph Towner, Brazlian guitarist-pianist Egberto Gismonti Or Corea. Just like these great musicians, Erez’s musical universe knows no borders.
Erez is also a composer who is not shy from being sentimental and emotional, and not only on «Choro Sentimental». Even more on the uplifting, Latin title-piece, dedicated to his daughter, or the lyrical and most beautiful «Yahli’s Lullaby», dedicated to his son, featuring a memorable solo of clarinettist François Houle. But most of all, Erez simply enjoys the adventure of improvising on a mischievous theme, as on the opening piece «Requinto» or in «Shesh» (six in Hebrew), again with the great Houle.
Itamar Erez (g, p), François Houle (cl), Hamin Honari (perc), James Meger (b), Kevin Romain (dr), Ilan Salem (fl), Dani Benedikt (dr), Celso Machado (perc)