Nottingham Post: Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble, Bonington Theatre

Alan Joyce


CELEBRATING its 10th year in existence, the Orient House Ensemble started its UK Anniversary Tour – "The Tide Has Changed" – right here in Nottingham last night. Saxophonist Atzmon explained to the near capacity audience that his group always started its tours in Nottingham "and will continue to do so for the next 30 decades. So make sure you're still around," he quipped.

The band's music, all specially written by Gilad for the tour and its accompanying CD, was enterprising and courageous, moulded around Gilad's ambitious, daring and at times outrageous themes. Included were snatches of be-bop, Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Klezmer – intense and involved but at the same time highly entertaining, all delivered with wit and humour.

Atzmon played alto and soprano saxes and clarinet with a flawless technique and endless flow of ideas. His rapport with pianist Frank Harrison was at times uncanny. Bolero At Sunrise (based on Ravel's classical piece), was a typical example. The sketches by piano and alto sax revealed fascinating improvisations. London To Gaza was dedicated to incidents in Gaza 18 months ago, illustrating Gilad's well-documented political views on the Palestinian situation in that part of the world. The soprano and Yaron Stavis' bowed double bass provided an eerie intro leading to huge chords from the bass behind Atzmon's wistful solo and drummer Eddie Hick's chattering percussion. There was humour in abundance in the quirky All The Way To Montenegro – a feature for Gilad's nimble clarinet. Another hilarious piece was We Laugh, which had Gilad's alto sounding like a latter day dance band musician. The Burning Bush was an Eastern European theme with Gilad soloing astonishingly and an exhibition of drumming pyrotechnics from the "new boy" in the band, the talented Eddie Hick. Later Gilad switched to some timeless be-bop after playing his alto without its mouthpiece! The be-bop theme continued with a breakneck version of Dizzy Gillespie's composition Be-Bop, with stunning performances from Atzmon and Harrison. Louis Armstrong's immortal What A Wonderful World was a wonderful encore to a wonderful evening's music. Here's to the next 10 years!