Idan Morim – I. M. – Outside in Music

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Idan Morim – I. M. – [TrackList follows] – Outside in Music OiM1919, 44:33 ****:

(Idan Morim – guitar; Adam O’Farrill – trumpet; Colin Stranahan – drums; Almog Savrit – bass; Micha Gilad – keyboards)

The evolution of a musician can take time. Sometimes an artist thinks they are doing everything they need to do, and then something happens, and they comprehend a change is required to take the next step in their musical development. Israeli guitarist Idan Morim underwent a revelation in the years after arriving in New York from his native Tel Aviv in 2013. While sharpening his guitar skills and endeavoring to reach a plateau of precise precision, Morim noticed musicians around him welcomed a looser and more organic approach, one which balanced allure and tension. “The bull’s eye wasn’t where I thought it was,” he says. “There was something different going on. The more I practice[d], played and tried to get to the bottom of it I realized that my favorite musicians weren’t trying to play ‘together’ in complete unison, but rather in a more abstract way. The discrepancies between them were actually what generated all of the beauty and groove.”

Morim’s subsequent phase was to alter his performance and composition mindset. And the result is the debut of his I.M. Quintet and Morim’s first album as a leader, the 44-minute I.M. There were various lineups until the band gelled to the one featured on I.M. Morim is joined by trumpeter Adam O’Farrill (he has performed and/or recorded with Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mary Halvorson, Stephan Crump, Anna Webber and others); drummer Colin Stranahan (he has worked with Kurt Rosenwinkel, Fred Hersch, Terence Blanchard and more); bassist Almog Savrit (a fellow Israeli who gigs around NYC); and keyboardist Micha Gilad (also born and raised in Israel; and has his own trio). 

The group opens with the loose-limbed “But I,” which sets the tenor for the whole record: melodically appealing, harmonically adept and modern in shape but not esoteric. Up next is a piece which owes its inspiration to the Beatles, but listeners won’t easily spot why. The upbeat “Coleoptera” was instigated when Morim’s music instructor Sam Yahel asked students to use the form of the Beatles song “If I Fell” to help create a new tune. Morim misconstrued the assignment and only copied the number of bars per section. But Morim liked the outcome and titled the piece after the order of insects which includes beetles. A tune with a dissimilar tone was also inspired by other musicians. The lingering “Wildfire” was stimulated by Morim’s guitar mentor Adam Rogers and bassist Eivind Opsvik, particularly Rogers’ “Red Leaves” and Opsvik’s “Silkweaver’s Song.” Morim explains, “Both of those pieces are very eerie and dark, but also walk a tightrope between time and rubato playing, which I think is a fascinating space.” The sometimes spooky “Wildfire” has a lot of legroom and stellar communication among the bandmembers, especially the interaction between Morim and Gilad, as well as the exchanges between Savrit (who transfers to arco bass for a deeper-hued noir-ish quality) and Stranahan. There are two longer compositions which include solo prologues. First there is “Movement,” which commences with a sublime 1:27 acoustic piano introduction, and then the full band enters on a deliberate progressive arrangement which includes a melody which Morim describes “just comes out of the chords and doesn’t really feel like a stand-alone line.” The equally extended “As If (It Was All a Dream)” has a comparable approach. First there is a lyrical 1:42 bass improvisation. After the preface the quintet picks up the pace and offers a post-bop display with hints of light fusion via Gilad’s electric keyboards. O’Farrill takes the high road with some memorable trumpet lines; and Stranahan showcases why he’s a go-to drummer. Morim concludes with declarative “I Know My Rights,” which starts in an atmospheric vein before shifting to a gradually inclining musical landscape highlighted by Morim and O’Farrill’s trumpet/guitar dialogue, while Stranahan accentuates his cymbals and ticking sticks and Savrit again makes good use of his arco bass effect. Morim admits his aesthetic ambition encompasses “crafting the most meticulous, dense, multidimensional, deep, and representative of nature art as I can.” He’s accomplished that with his first release. 

But I
Movement (Intro)
Movement (Outro)
As If (It Was All a Dream) [Intro]
As If (It Was All a Dream)
I Know My Rights

—Doug Simpson


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