Wednesday, February 23, 2011

REVIEW: Noam Elron "Fluctuation"

Israeli bassist Noam Elron, though an avid listener of music from his youth, only took to the serious pursuit of playing and composing in his mid-twenties.  However, in the ensuing time he has developed and burnished his craft through private study, session work and live performance in venues both large and small.  Some of the festivals Elron has played include the Israel Festival and Caesarea Jazz Plus.  Though jazz, both traditional and contemporary, appears to be his primary genre and mode of expression, his avenues of musical application include rock, R&B, funk and others.  Additionally, Elron has composed and performed music for film and theater as well as serving as co-leader and bassist for contemporary jazz unit, Umami Quartet.
Brimming with inspired performance, a variety of ethnic influences and magical interplay, Fluctuation is Elron’s brilliant solo debut recording.

Displaying the tasteful restraint and maturity of seasoned artistry, Fluctuation is really the fruit of a collaborative effort between guitarist Dima Gorelik, flautist Hadar Noiberg and percussionist Noam Landsman, rounded out and led by Elron on double bass.

“An Interesting Young Woman” serves as the album’s wistful intro, awash in lyrical guitar and flute melodies, shimmering cymbals and understated bass.  A rustic quality, perhaps evoking Gabor Szabo, offers early evidence of Elron’s contentment to let the music speak without him having to be in the spotlight.  It’s this wisdom and unselfishness which helps to make Fluctuation such a delightful collection.

The flamenco-infused “Los AgvaƱiotes” exquisitely balances the fiery guitar strumming and flute of Gorelik and Noiberg with peaceful passages.  Sharp accents and flowing melodies make for a fluid tension and release effect while Gorelik’s contemplative guitar solo halfway through is a terrific counterpoint.  Because Fluctuation is such a synergistic effort, it’s difficult to make the case that any one player stands out, but it’s clear that Noiberg’s flute shines with buoying melodic effect on “Los AgvaƱiotes” and throughout.

“Constante Anhelo” is a mellow piece, colored with Latin pastels and Elron’s deliciously textured and underscored playing. Like a fire gently stoked, energy gradually builds then recedes just at the climax.
Middle Eastern vibes, courtesy of Noiberg’s flute, add unexpected spice to the Latin Jazz of “Sababa 5”.  Memorably lyrical passages make the piece accessible and inviting whilst the sizzling energy of the group provides danceable inspiration.  Landsman’s drums and cymbals crackle with zest yet reveal an uncanny sensitivity to space and time.  What’s also evident is that Noiberg’s or Gorelik’s solos are never obligatory; rather they are thoughtful enhancements to the compositions and album at large.

In its intro, “Oblivion,” penned by Astor Piazzolla and the only non-original piece on the record, offers a humble showcase for Elron’s sinewy bass interpolations and slap percussion.  A quietly rich cohesion is established as the musicians interact, supported by Elron’s cavernous lines.  “Oblivion” is a splendid gem, radiating earthy colors and subtle beauty, and punctuated by impassioned interplay.  Landsman is particularly impressive here for his use of timber, texture and rhythm.

“Hydra Variations in F# Minor” reveals a bit of avant garde flair before settling into a groove.  Conversation between Noiberg’s flute and Gorelik’s guitar add a bit of tension as accented bass and drum offer a solid foundation.  The pensive “Fluctuation” is a gorgeous centerpiece, displaying creative mastery and thoughtful muse.  The sunny-sounding “The Day Without Time” breathes with openness and free expression, imbued with the soft richness of Noiberg’s flute.  Gorelik sets forth a memorable guitar motif which is revisited periodically.  Surprisingly, in a most pleasant way, backing choral chants enter into the mix, lending a distinctive old world flavor and suitable finishing touch as the music fades out.

Much in the way fellow bassist John Patitucci is able to interpret the music of various cultures and sensibly incorporate it into his own compositions, Noam Elron, with his solo debut, shows himself to perhaps be a branch off the same musical tree.  Fluctuation is an authentic beauty of an album that never sounds like it’s trying too hard to be anything; it just simply is.

Review by Mike Roots
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

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