By Peter Bacon
(Fanfare Jazz FJ1501)
Eight albums in nearly 15 years together – with minimal personnel changes along the way – is quite an achievement and a tribute to the resolute determination, energy and creativity of the bandleader and his dedicated fellow musicians.
Atzmon is the epitome of WISIWIGness: as forthright in his music as in his opinions, as witty and playful, as deadly serious, as exuberant and intense, as romantic and sentimental, as visceral and pugilistic, and as generally bursting with personality. This is a man who appears to live life at a higher, wilder, riskier level than most of us have the energy for.
That album title might have all kinds of Edward Snowden connotations but even as he means it to signify straight-talking, exposing hypocrisy and generally being a thorn in the side of the establishment, so too is it full of (mock) modesty. Everything has a double meaning with Gilad, the playful manipulator not only of notes but of words as well. He says in the liner notes: “I am an avid admirer of simplicity and transparency, the moment of clarity that leaves the mind in the dark, yet content. I guess that is why I blow the whistle instead of playing the fiddle.”
And, my, can he blow a whistle – or in this case, alto and soprano saxophones and clarinet (he also contributes accordion, guitar and vocals). Long-time Orient House residents Frank Harrison on piano and Yaron Stavi on double bass are joined by new boy Chris Higginbottom on drums.
Gaza Mon Amour welcomes the listener into a wild Middle Eastern dance, complete with chanting, which then in the course of Atzmon’s alto solo morphs into A Love Supreme quotes and more jazzy territory; Forever and The Romantic Church find the band exploring their romantic, spiritual sides, with some gorgeous piano from Harrison on the latter; Let Us Pray goes back to Coltrane-ish searching jazz; The Song is just that, a rich accordion-led melody; To Be Free sets the band on an intense, free-rhythmed, soprano-led exploration; while For Moana (Atzmon seems to hold a flame for Italian porn actress-turned-politician Moana Pozzi, whom he calls “my vintage romantic heroine”) finds us back among the seductive candlelight, though with more than a little greasepaint and glitter in the air.
I’m not sure The Whistleblower is this band’s strongest ever album, but it’s pretty close.
To Buy The Whistle Blower online:
- Atzmon and Orient House have always been hard-working giggers, and they are half-way through a four-month tour of England. The Midland dates still to come are Birmingham Jazz at The Red Lion on Friday 6 March and Leicester Jazz House at the Y Club on 1 April. For a full list of dates go to Gilad’s website here.