Review: The Gilad Atzmon Quartet, Everyman Studio, Cheltenham

THERE’S only one Gilad Atzmon! Accept no substitutes!

Which is all very well, but last January Cheltenham Jazz had no option but to present the Atzmon quartet minus a flu-suffering Gilad.

So here was the make-up-for-it gig to end make-up-for-it gigs. OK this time around fate opted to give the normally 110% Israeli saxophonist a slipped disc, but he blew through the pain with every ounce of his energy and emotion,

That wasn’t why he started the session sitting, playing piano accordion. The answer emerged as his phrasing, then a switch to clarinet and an irresistibly romantic melody recreated Paris before our very ears. The session, as per the quartet’s latest CD, was following a geographical theme.

As usual Gilad engaged in an off-the-cuff hilarious dialogue with the audience. “See Tel Aviv now.” he advised - “before the Palestinian rockets devastate it.” His soprano sax solo was certainly devastating, spiralling into intense Klezmer courtesy of immense virtuosity.

A Moscow alto-sax excursion was dedicated tongue in cheek to President Putin. He would have loved Frank Harrison’s big Mussorgsky piano chords, and Yavo Stavi’s bass profoundo solo.

England was represented by Scarborough Fair, its folk structure facilitating a soprano sax explosion.

A very slow Argentinean tango might have been entitle Blues-ness Aires, and on this and the old Hoagy Carmichael tune Georgia Gilad produced a truly profound level of emotion.

Iraq was a wild Dervish ride and in a later tune Africa seemed to emerge, with a call and response vocal.

I’ve said little about the other players, including drummer Eddie Hick, because they were almost exclusively in a supporting roll. But this was their chance to show impressive orchestral skills and when short solos came their way, they were nailed with verve.

Next time let’s hope for a Gilad with no ailments at all – although untrammelled he might well lift the roof.