(Roy Assaf, piano; Eddy Khaimovich, double bass; Roy Hargrove, trumpet (1, 2, 4); Robin Verheyen, saxophones (1, 3-7); Ronen Itzik, drums)
This release led by the Israeli-born, now New York-based pianist and bassist was much anticipated. They are masters of their instruments in addition to being talented arrangers and composers. One of the highlights of this disc is the superb engineering and mixing focusing on and highlighting their contributions, particularly the capturing of Khaimovich’s Eddie Gomez-influenced bass. His multiple solos are magnificent, as is his driving supportive groundwork throughout. Assaf’s piano is note-perfect with some nice twists and turns. I’m glad that Roy Hargrove appears on three tracks since Robin Verheyen’s “too Charles Lloyd/Dave Liebman influenced” saxophones largely add little or even detract from the presentation. Many might disagree, but I am far from enamored of this sonic character. The only time the sax shows any real bite is on Assaf’s hard bop composition ” On The Way”. Otherwise, it strikes me as “Coltrane/Shorter lite”. But that’s just me.
The disc opens with interesting re-arrangements of Cole Porter’s “All of You” and the jazz standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is”. These tunes demonstrate the leader’s greatest strength – the thoughtful re-working of well-known material. Track one is brilliant with a tremendous bass solo and original counter rhythm with jump starts. Assaf’s arrangement of track two is also quite modern and imaginative. Both benefit from Mr. Hargrove. Track three is just OK, with a nice bass solo, but drab tenor sax work.
Things definitely pick up with the post-bop swing of trumpet, sax, piano, drums and bass. Everybody gets a chance to show their stuff on track four. Then we settle back into nice compositions, perfect piano and bass soloing, wonderful bass and piano support, but boring “new age-sounding” saxophone for the remainder of the disc. Again, there may be many out there who enjoy the tone of Verheyen’s soprano and tenor – his facility is actually superb if this sonic signature is your cup of tea.
In summary, the production values were very wisely chosen by having the superlative bass playing to the forefront in the mix. The arrangements of the two standards are unique, there’s a fine post-bop effort, the other original compositions are worthy and the two leaders are excellent jazzmen. My suggestion for future releases would be to again include a top-flight trumpeter on some tracks, but mainly to enlist a saxophonist with the fire mandated to bring things to the next level.
TrackList: All of You, You Don’t Know What Love Is, Stuv, On The Way, The Saga of Imaba, Waltz For T, Andarta
– Birney K. Brown