For the past two decades Israeli born, British based saxophonist, author and political provocateur Gilad Atzmon has matched his incendiary and controversial opinions with a relentlessly questioning attitude to the establishment and his own identity. With 15 albums to his name- backed by his rip-roaring Orient House Ensemble - Atzmon's latest, The Whistle Blower, is perhaps his most compelling to date. His Garrulous playing both mesmerizing and melancholic by turns. Stewart Nicholson discovers the outspoken polymath is still searching for answers in today's polemical maelstrom through passion, humour and politics.Read More
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble: The Whistle Blower
The saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist has launched his own label for the release of his 14th album with Orient House, one for each year of the band’s existence. The music is a characteristic mix of familiar strategies from the London-based Israeli, taking in the biting Middle Eastern sonority of Gaza Mon Amour, Coltrane-inspired intensity on Let Us Pray and To Be Free, graceful balladry on Forever and The Romantic Church, and throwaway pop on the title track.
The leader is in fine form on saxophones and clarinet, and throws in accordion and guitar for good measure, while the excellent Frank Harrison on piano and bassist Yaron Stavi do their usual fine job in this context.
Chris Higginbottom filled the drum chair on this session, and brings a more conventional jazz feel than his long-standing predecessor, Asaf Sirkis. KENNY MATHIESON
Album review: Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, The Whistle Blower
by John Marley
WHETHER you question his politics or not, it would be difficult to question Gilad Atzmon’s musical abilities. Having released a string of albums under his own name, he has forged a reputation as one of the hardest-working jazz musicians in the country. The Whistle Blower fuses classic jazz improvising with middle-eastern influences to create a unique and gripping set of compositions.
The album opener Gaza Mon Amour eatures a driving groove beneath a catchy eastern melody. This is followed by a pair of contrasting ballads which showcase Atzmon’s lyrical soprano playing as well as an excellent bass solo from Yaron Stavi. The Coltrane influence is present on Let Us Pray which develops in a style similar to the master work, A Love Supreme. The track builds through 11 minutes of intense modal improvisation.
There is more world music influence on The Song with Atzmon demonstrating his accordion-playing skills, which inject another layer of variety to the record. An interesting and intelligently constructed album.
Gilad Atzmon & The OHE - The Whistle Blower
Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble have been busy in their musical kitchen, cooking up a delightful menu for their listeners. Whether you like a la carte, picking and choosing tracks to suit your current mood, or to take a listen right through on the set menu, the result is a tasteful delight. Released on Gilad Atzmon’s Fanfare Records, The Whistle Blower was recorded at the Fish Factory studio in London.
The Whistle Blower is packed with different tastes, styles and moods. The opening track “Gaza Mon Amour” starts with a thumping Eastern beat and melody which transforms into a moody middle section with Gilad Atzmon’s always-dextrous sax conjuring up the feeling of a bazaar with all its mysteries and depths. The piano of Frank Harrison then introduces a classical topping, and the piece returns finally to the Eastern-inspired theme again. “Forever” is a sweet, gentle melody, the beautiful theme set by the sax before the piano takes it and develops it, then returns at the last to the original melody.
“The Romantic Church” takes you on a fantastical journey through majestic sax lines, backed by gentle percussion and bass lines with the piano once again soaring in the middle section. The piece is lifted by emotive playing from Gilad Atzmon, as he sweeps in and out on sax. “Let Us Pray” starts with a sax and drums entry, then a pause before first percussion, then the sax again repeats the theme before the piece develops — scaling up and up, soaring and taking the listener with the musicians as all follow the sax leads. “The Song” is short but very sweet with accordion, drums and piano creating a sense of a boulevard feel. The bass of Yaron Stavi soloes in the middle section and introduces a darker, softer element before the swinging, gentle swaying theme is allowed to re-emerge.
“To Be Free” starts quietly, with a heartfelt sax rendering, before the keys develop the theme and the track revolves around this. “For Moana” — a reference to Moana Pozzi, an Italian porn actress — is a quiet, free-rolling number made by the interaction of sax and piano. The Whistle Blower concludes with its track, and it’s lighthearted with some great vocals from Tali Atzmon and Antonio Feola. The song swings from a sexy introduction with wolf whistles and lazy, laid back singing from the band, an accordion, a bit of unison singing, a bit of background whistling, and a dollop of bawdiness.
The ballady feel to the tracks is reminiscent in parts to the group’s previous album, 2013’s Songs of the Metropolis, but the master chefs have added more ingredients and developed their menu. Listening to the album is like unwrapping a box of chocolates. Many have a familiar feel and texture but the hearts are surprising — sometimes what you expect, but more often not. Each listen reveals another layer, another ingredient which the chefs have added to create the final dish.
The listener is taken to dizzy heights at times before being dropped unceremoniously into the depths of dark rhythms and then lifted once more with a laugh and caressed with the magic of Gilad Atzmon’s saxophone playing. There is a certain rhythm and camber which runs through a lot of Atzmon’s music which could make it predictable but he is also blessed to be surrounded by the gifted playing of Yaron Stavi on double and electric bass, Frank Harrison on piano and keys, and Chris Higginbottom on drums which make sure there is an element of change, excitement and new ingredients added to the chef’s standard dishes.
The Whistle Blower is beautiful in many ways. It leaves the listener with melodies to savor. It is balanced, well delivered and the varied menu is sure to cater for many tastes. On the album sleeve, Gilad Atzmon states that the compositions are about love, nostalgia, devotion and simplicity — and that he hopes the listener enjoys listening to is as much as the band enjoyed making it. I think it is safe to say that has been achieved.
To Buy The Whistle Blower online:
A CASCADE of unalloyed Middle Eastern exuberance announces this latest release from Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble. One of the hardest-working musicians on the London and UK jazz scene, multi-instrumentalist and composer Atzmon is one of those privileged beings whose instrument (here, chiefly sax) appears simply to be an extension of their own being, such is the fervid eloquence and quick-witted delivery of his performances.Read More
Gilad Atzmon: The Whistle Blower
After a turn on the Pink Floyd’s The Endless River, the Israeli-born saxophonist returns to choppier jazz waters. The Whistle Blower contains the familiar Atzmon elements: Middle Eastern rhythms, passionate Coltrane-esque solos, a dash of humour and a dash of politics but now blended with a craft that reflects eight years of hard touring by his fine Orient House Ensemble. Not as overwhelming as an Atzmon live date can be, but still full of fine moments.
By John Fordham
Gilad Atzmon Orient House Ensemble: The Whistle Blower CD review – muscular tones to naff pop
The expat Israeli musician Gilad Atzmon told Jazzwise magazine: “If my music wants to go in one direction, it will take me with it.”This eighth album by Atzmon’s powerful Orient House Ensemble goes in at least three directions: muscular Coltrane-like energy; melancholy tone-poetry drawing on the Turkish and Arabic inflections in the leader’s playing; cheerfully subversive clowning. The title also splits three ways, referring to Atzmon the virtuoso wind-player, Atzmon the guerrilla of political incorrectness (the heartfelt ballad For Moana was inspired by the late Italian porn-star and politician Moana Pozzi), and to the jokey wolf-whistling the band does on the closing title track – which sounds like a naff French pop song of the 1960s., and is a typically Atzmonian disruption of the affecting and romantic melancholia that has preceded it. For all its distractions, though, this is a world-jazz album displaying Atzmon’s most explicit commitment to the “jazz” component of that label – as evocatively mellow as the work of an early New Orleans clarinettist in The Romantic Church, awesome on double-time alto-sax bebop, impassioned and swooping on soprano in the Coltranesque Let Us Pray or To Be Free. Gilad Atzmon is many things, some of them lovable and some less so, but he’s a gifted jazz musician to his core.
To buy The Whistle Blower:
CD Review: Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble - The Whistle Blower
Gilad Atzmon (alt/sop/clt/acc/gtr/vcl); Frank Harrison (pno/keys/vcl); Yaron Stavi (bs/vcl); Chris Higginbottom (dms/vcl); + Tali Atzmon, Antonio Feola (voice).
(Review by Lance).
It's not for me to comment on anything other than the music - not even the title! Gilad's political views have long caused controversy but - freedom of speech, Je suis, and freedom in music too. Gilad represents freedom in music without losing qualities that are music. The Whistle Blower is an emotional release that contains excitement alongside the most romantic saxophone playing I've ever heard in contemporary (ish) jazz. Maybe if Hodges or Webster had been born on the day they died they could have found in Gilad a soulmate.
His portrait of Moana Pozzi (Italian 'Adult' actress who died aged 33) is beautifully painted in sound on the track For Moana. Gilad goes further and writes in the notes:
I am old fashioned
A reactionary existentialist
The enemy of progress
A Kantian rebel in your midst.
But I love Moana Pozzi
My vintage romantic heroine
When she passes by
She glances at me and beams gently.
I am old fashioned
An honorary knight of The Romantic Church
I am the Iman of retro
And I am happy.
It's an impossible disc to describe fully. There is so much happening - sadness, love, explorative excursions, beauty - put beauty top of the list - and the quirkiness we've come to expect from the Orient House Ensemble is in there too and I wouldn't have it anywhere else. Sadly it is everywhere else! The band's tour runs from January to April 30 and they are everywhere else - apart from the north east that is!
Seems to me I'm ending a lot of reviews like this lately...
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble - The Whistle Blower is available now - check out Samples Link.