Nostalgico

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Tip Toe
ALBUM TITLE: Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble
PERFORMER: Gilad Atzmon (ss, as, cl), Frank Harrison (p, melodica, ky), Oli Hayhurst (b), Asaf Sirkis (d, bandir), Brian Neil (g), Joe de Jesus (t, tb)
CATALOGUE NO: TIP-888 841 2

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In his deeply personal booklet note to this album, Gilad Atzmon explains its title by recalling his childhood in Israel, dreaming about Western culture: ‘I would close my eyes, meditate over Italian melodies and Afro-American sounds, and recollect film scenes in black and white.’

The album’s music he describes as ‘about unfulfilled dreams and fragmented melodies… a fantasy that dissolved into a broken rhythmic reality’, perfectly summarising Nostalgico’s musical richness, variety and inventiveness, but conveying neither its emotional power nor its sheer gutsiness and immediate accessibility.

For these are the qualities that Atzmon has brought to the London jazz scene since settling in the city in 1996. He shows faultless technique on all his horns, enabling him to play blistering bebop on alto with as much facility as he performs klezmer-inflected melodies on clarinet, or jazz classics (such as this album’s ‘I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good’) on soprano.

In addition, he imbues all he plays with a passion that he himself puts down to having been brought up ‘to be an oppressor, a role which didn’t suit me and which I couldn’t accept’.

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Consequently, Nostalgico, from its intriguing reworkings of the familiar – ‘Lust for Sale’, infusing the Porter classic with disturbing power; ‘20th Century’; incorporating ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ and ‘Mack the Knife’ into a haunting, funereal march, a brooding threnody for a uniquely turbulent era – to its imaginative filterings of such material as ‘Petite Fleur’ and ‘Singing in the Rain’ through the sensibilities of one of the most open-eared and adaptable bands in contemporary jazz, is that rarest of animals: a genuinely eclectic album transformed into a wholly satisfying artistic statement courtesy of the unswerving commitment and vigorous but flawless musicality of its performers. Chris Parker