Gilad Atzmon

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All About Jazz -5 star review

Gilad Atzmon And The Orient House Ensemble: The Whistle Blower

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-whistle-blower-gilad-atzmon-fanfare-jazz-review-by-tyran-grillo.php

By TYRAN GRILLO 
Published: May 23, 2016

The Whistle Blower is the eighth album from saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble, but sounds as fresh as the first. As one of the most fearless improvisers of the UK jazz scene, Atzmon has always worn his politics loudly on his sleeve, and here the story of an Israeli Jew who left home in search of new identities rings truer than ever over the course of seven original tunes. The listener emerges from the other ends of their tunnel with affirmation not only of survival, but more importantly of staying true to one's expressive potential.

"Gaza mon Amour" assembles a prime groove right out of the box, priming the canvas for Atzmon's sopranism. The tone he gets out of that higher reed is as distinct as his angular notecraft, sounding more like a Middle Eastern zurna than a Western woodwind. Wordless vocals from the band spike the rhythmic punch before their leader unleashes a sermon on alto. His integrity catapults him off the map into his own cartographic universe, unafraid to hit the ground running wherever may land. From hot spring to cool stream, Atzmon eases into "Forever," the first in a virtuosic ballad sequence. Yet what at first appears to be a leaner body reveals itself to be just as muscular as the previous, for there is an underlying strength to Atzmon's writing that fortifies his soloing with metaphorical protein. Pianist Frank Harrison adds shading to the canvas, allowing just enough sunlight from soprano to spread its warmth to distant grasslands on wings of loving, persistent memory. Deeper sentiments await in "The Romantic Church." Here Atzmon wields his alto more like brush than scripture, while synth textures from Harrison add cinematic flair. "Let Us Pray" continues the sacred theme. Atzmon on soprano cracks open a tirade of exposition, leaving Harrison to unpack some of the more intimate acrobatics. He works from short story to novella, allowing the inner drive of the music to push things forward and beyond. Drummer Chris Higginbottom offers artistic subtleties of his own at last call. Atzmon switches hats in "The Song," for which he plays accordion. This supple waltz is rich with lived experience and transparent optimism, and spotlights bassist Yaron Stavi's lyricism. The next two tracks, "To be Free" and "For Moana," put the soprano back into play, balancing rubato impulses with flourishing pianism before the title track finishes out the set with a colorful smile in a rhythmic and stylistic mash-up. As this knowing wink proves, there is nothing arbitrary about Atzmon's sound. He is more than a storyteller; he is a story-bringer who drops narratives like weighty tomes, the contents of which he proceeds to give summaries in one fell swoop, and always with a depth of charge that makes any interpretation that follows seem inevitable.


Track Listing: Gaza mon Amour; Forever; The Romantic Church; Let Us Pray; The Song: To be Free; For Moana; The Whistle Blower.

Personnel: Gilad Atzmon: alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, accordion, guitar, vocals; Frank Harrison: piano, keyboards, vocals; Yaron Stavi: double bass, electric bass, vocals; Chris Higginbottom: drums, vocals; Tali Atzmon: vocals; Antonio Feola: voice.

Saxofonist Gilad Atzmon wirbt für Aussöhnung in Palästina

»Orient House Ensemble« präsentiert klasse Musik mit politischer Botschaft im Kappelrodecker »Vaya Casa«

By Berthold Gallinat

Ein äußerst streitbarer Musiker hatte am Sonntagabend im »Vaya Casa« seinen Auftritt: Gilad Atzmon und sein »Orient House Ensemble«. Unbestreitlich ist seine musikalische Qualität, denn er gehört zu den großen Saxofonisten der Gegenwart. Streiten kann man hingegen über seine politischen Ansichten zur jüdischen Identität und zum Holocaust sowie besonders zum israelischen Staat im Umgang mit den Palästinensern. In Jerusalem 1963 als Israeli geboren, hielt sich Gilad Atzmon ab 1993 vor allem in Großbritannien auf; seit 2002 ist er britischer Staatsbürger.  In mehreren, sehr umstrittenen Büchern wirft er dem israelischen Staat eine ethnozentrische Ideologie vor, die eine Aussöhnung mit den Palästinensern auf Dauer verhindere.

Auf heiklem Terrain

Diese Aussöhnung nimmt er in seiner Jazzmusik vor, denn mit seinem »Orient House Ensemble« spielt er auch Musik, in der sich jüdische und arabische Musiktradition vereinen. So versöhnt er musikalisch, was auf politischer Ebene nicht gelingt. Der Name »Orient House Ensemble« geht im Übrigen auf das frühere PLO-Hauptquartier in Ostjerusalem zurück. In »Gaza Mon Amour« kam Gilads Botschaft prall und lebendig zum Ausdruck, mal tänzerisch leicht, mal gebetsmühlenartig schwer und dann auch wieder schreiend expressiv. Unverkennbar kam als Wesenselement seiner Jazzmusik die Tradition des Bebop zur Geltung, wenn er in berstenden Improvisationen bis fast zur Erschöpfung rasende und nervöse Phrasen hinfetzte, die seine großartigen Mitspieler Frank Harrison (Piano, Keyboard), Yaron Stavi (Bass) und Enzo Zirilli (Drums) dann wieder in feiner Jazzlyrik oder auch in swingender Rhythmik auflösten. 

Wie feine Sektperlen ließ Frank Harrrison beim Vortrag »In A Sentimental Mood« die Töne aus dem E-Piano aufsteigen, akzentuiert mit behutsamen Bassklängen untermalt von Yaron Stavi und gegründet auf ganz fein gestrichenen Drums des Drummers Enzo Zirilli. Es war neben dem Anfangsstück »The Romantic Church« eines der wenigen Stücke, in denen auch Atzmon mit rauchigem Saxofonspiel eine intensive Ruhe ausstrahlte, in »The Burning Bush« dagegen spielte er es wieder expressiv hart. 

Im Laufe des Konzerts wechselte Gilad Atzmon Sopransaxofon und Tenorsaxofon und griff auch einmal, wie er es nannte, zu seinem neuen Spielzeug, einem Altsaxofon mit schwenkbarem Schallbecher. Nicht zuletzt stellte er im Stück »The Song« eindrücklich unter Beweis – auch wenn er mitteilte, er könne es gar nicht spielen –, dass auch die Ziehharmonika als Jazzinstru­ment geeignet ist. Dem großen Jazzmusiker John Coltrane war eine Ballade gewidmet und mit »The Whistle Blower« spielten Gilad Atzmon und sein »Orient House Ensemble« das Titelstück des neuen Albums. Es war ein spannender Jazz, den Atzmon und seine Mitspieler spielten, wobei in Atzmons Spiel die harten, expressiven Linien überwogen.

 

OHE in Wagner's City

Von Wolfgang Karl

http://www.nordbayerischer-kurier.de/nachrichten/jazz-hier-hort-der-mossad-mit_465410

BAYREUTH. Von einem nie ganz Unpolitischen: Jazz Virtuose Gilad Atzmon trumpft im Becher-Saal auf, kokettiert mit seinem Ruf als Nestbeschmutzer - und weiß den Mossad auf seinen Spuren.

 

 

Am Anfang denkt man: Vielleicht wäre es interessanter, diesen Mann sprechen zu hören. Er hat ja was zu sagen, dieser nie ganz unpolitische Gilad Atzmon. Sein erstes Stück hingegen wirkt, na gut, sagen wir mal: konventionell. In einer recht traditionellen Ballade streift Gilad Atzmon Jazz-Klassiker wie „I did it my way“, bekannt durch Frank Sinatra, oder „As time goes by“ aus dem Film Casablanca.

Das ruhige, verträumte Stück bezeichnet Atzmon selbst als „misleading beginning“ – als irreführenden Beginn. Den restlichen Abend verspricht er mehr „Krach“. Als solchen kann man Atzmons Kompositionen aber beim besten Willen nicht bezeichnen. Bei seinem Stück „Gaza, mon amour“ geht es einfach nur richtig ab. Am liebsten würde man die Tische zur Seite räumen und ausgelassen tanzen.

Kleiner Wink in Richtung PLO

Ein lebendige Melodie voller orientalischer Lebensfreude. Man kann sich das Menschengedränge in den engen Gassen einer arabischen Altstadt, das Stimmengewirr, die Gerüche förmlich vorstellen. Natürlich erzeugt Atzmon so einen dichten Sound nicht alleine: Frank Harrison am Piano, Bassist Yaron Stavi und ein junger Italiener an den Drums unterstützen Atzmon. Der war für Chris Higginbottom, den eigentlichen Drummer eingesprungen und erledigte seine Sache virtuos – zum Beispiel mit einem minutenlangen und bejubelten Drum-Solo im letzten Stück. Überhaupt hat Atzmon starke Musiker um sich versammelt: Auch Frank Harrisons Piano-Soli sorgten für reichlich Zwischenapplaus. Starke Musiker braucht es aber auch, um einen Frontmann wie Atzmon tragen zu können: Der ehemalige Fallschirmjäger ist ein kräftiger, großer Mann mit einem Stiernacken und einem ganz besonderen Humor. Seine Band nennt er Orient House Ensemble – benannt nach dem ehemaligen Hauptquartier der PLO in Jerusalem.

An einer Stelle nimmt der Multiinstrumentalist ein Akkordeon auf. Er wisse, meint Atzmon, dass es schon einer gewissen Chuzpe bedürfe, in BayernAkkordeon spielen zu wollen. Als das Publikum daraufhin lacht, sagt er nur: „Oh, nicht wie das letzte Mal in der Gegend. Ihr versteht ja wenigstens Englisch.“

Take Tel Aviv

Bei Atzmon kann man gar nicht genau sagen, mit welchem Instrument er eigentlich am meisten brilliert: Dem Saxophon, der Klarinette – oder seiner Sprache. Als Journalist hat er sich in Israel viele Feinde gemacht und war folglich seit 20 Jahren schon nicht mehr in seiner Heimat. Eine Verhaftung wegen Landesverrats würde ihm wohl drohen. Passenderweise heißt die aktuelle CD des Bläsers „The Whistleblower“. „Gaza mon amour“ ist darauf das erste Stück.

Der Stadt Tel Aviv hat er aber auch ein kleines Denkmal gesetzt: In Ahnlehnung an Dave Brubeck’s „Take five“ hat er eine persönliche Aufnahme zu Tel Aviv komponiert. Auch hier geht es wild, roh, ungestüm zu, wenn das Stück auch mehr Passagen der Ruhe enthält. Lässt er die Klarinette kreischen, könnte man meinen, er explodiert gleich. Im nächsten Moment schließt er die Augen, lässt die Zunge aus dem Mund hängen und tanzt verzückt. Manchmal verlässt er während des Konzertes einfach die Bühne. Damit lässt er seinen virtuosen Kollegen den nötigen Raum, selbst ein paar Akzente zu setzen. Doch jedes Mal, wenn er die Bühne betritt, ist man ein wenig gebannt von der massiven Präsenz dieses Mannes. Auf Nachfrage meint er, er würde täglich mit Bedrohung leben: „Der Mossad weiß immer wo ich bin – deswegen steht auch niemand auf der Bühne hinter mir.“ Ein echter Typ, ein starkes Konzert.

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Gapplegate Music Review - Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, The Whistle Blower

The band is in fine shape, but especially noteworthy is Gilad's reedwork. He combines a uniquely throaty mid-eastern tone with some very soulful, virtuoso lining abilities one might call post-Trane, far enough away and well enough established in its own terms that the POST part is ascendant. He has the ability to string together rapid line outbursts that are impressive and moving, a rival to Rudesh Mahanthappa in that way though stylistically distinct. He has his own approach and some tremendous artistry

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Gaza Mon Amour in Istanbul (Turkish TV)

Gilad Atzmon & The OHE featuring Sarp Maden (guitar) in a concert for Palestine in Istanbul Hakka Sada Konseri/Mazlumder - 19.02.2015

 

We performed in Istanbul with Mercan Dede and his band, it was a massive concert at the peak of a snow storm. The journey took us 36 hours, we landed in Istanbul just 60 minutes before the concert.  Here is the music. Many more concerts with Sarp and Mercan are in the planing.

The Jazzmann 4 Stars Review

The Jazzmann 4 Stars Review

http://www.thejazzmann.com/

 

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

“The Whistle Blower” maintains the high standard established by previous OHE releases as it continues to explore Atzmon's themes of love, loss and belonging.

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble

“The Whistle Blower”

Album Launch at The Pizza Express Jazz Club - March 11th-14th

(Fanfare Jazz FJ1501)

The multi talented Gilad Atzmon has been a regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages, appearing as an instrumentalist, composer, author and political activist. All these aspects of his work are interlinked but it’s primarily his activities as a musician that interest us most as the Jazzmann.

Born in Israel but based in the UK for more than twenty years Atzmon is best known as a saxophonist although he also plays clarinet, accordion and guitar and occasionally sings. As a leader he has fronted his regular working band The Orient House Ensemble since the late 1990s and “The Whistle Blower” represents the eighth album by this prolific unit. Elsewhere Atzmon has been involved in productive creative liaisons with Sarah Gillespie, Robert Wyatt, Tango Siempre and Norman Watt- Roy. As a sideman he famously works alongside bassist Watt-Roy as a member of the Blockheads and he has guested on albums by guitarist Nicolas Meier, bassist Shez Raja and many others. Most recently, and perhaps most famously, he has featured as the saxophonist on the new Pink Floyd album “The Endless River”.  Other high profile session dates have included work with Paul McCartney, Sinead O’Connor, Robbie Williams and The Waterboys. Atzmon is also in high demand as a producer with albums by Gillespie and percussionist Adriano Adewale ranking among my personal favourites.

“The Whistle Blower” introduces a new version of the Orient House Ensemble with Chris Higginbottom taking over the drum chair from Eddie Hick, who had in turn followed Asaf Sirkis and Enzo Zirilli. Long serving member Yaron Savi remains on both acoustic and electric bass and co-founder Frank Harrison features on piano and a range of keyboards. On this album all four group members also sing.

“The Whistle Blower”  is the first release on Atzmon’s own Fanfare record label. The title seems particularly apt, it works in the musical sense that Atzmon is a player of multiple reed instruments but there’s also the political dimension of the phrase. As an avowed anti Zionist and as somebody who has spoken out strongly against the activities of the Israeli government, particularly with regard to Palestine and Gaza, the “whistle blowing” Atzmon is effectively an exile from his own country. Despite living and working in England for over twenty years he still sees British culture through the eyes of an “outsider” despite making himself very much at home here.

Atzmon is a multi faceted, sometimes self-contradictory figure. “The Whistle Blower” continues to explore many of the themes that run through previous OHE albums such as “Nostalgico”, “Exile” and “Refuge” as he continues to examine the role of music in his personal and political life. He’s a multi cultural figure who disdains political correctness, a political agitator with an intense romantic nostalgia not only for his homeland but also for an idealised jazz history, a fiercely intelligent thinker with an earthy, some would say crude, sense of humour. His character is a fascinating mix of apparent opposites that creates an energy which he channels into his albums and into his exciting and often unpredictable live performances. For all the angst Atzmon is a brilliant showman, something of a dying breed in contemporary jazz. Even I’m prepared to admit that the music sometimes takes itself much too seriously.

Atzmon’s notes on the packaging for the new album abound with provocative pronouncements but his belief in the power of music as the instrument of truth shines through. Of the eight pieces on the record he states; “these compositions are about love, nostalgia, devotion and simplicity”.

It begins with “Gaza Mon Amour” which fuses aspects of Arabic folk music with the spiritual jazz of John Coltrane. Its composer describes it as “ a combination of great bebop artistry and Middle Eastern roots in a sophisticated, sometimes ironical manner influenced by Coltrane’s powerful approach to the sax”.  Atzmon deploys a variety of reeds and the opening stages will sound decidedly Middle Eastern to most West European and American ears. Yet there’s an authentic Coltrane style intensity to the blistering sax solo at the heart of the piece that wholly justifies and vindicates Atzmon’s description. He receives terrific support from his well drilled band with the faithful Harrison conjuring up a variety of piano sounds and the super flexible team of Stavi and Higginbottom handling the rhythmic twists and turns with panache. It’s a typically attention grabbing opener and a piece that must be wildly exciting in the live environment.

Atzmon has spoken of “the nostalgic Gilad, not sad but lamenting”. Indeed many of these pieces could be said to constitute “laments”. There’s a real sense of yearning within the lush balladry of “Forever” with its keening saxophone and lyrical piano embellished by Higginbottom’s assured cymbal flourishes.

Harrison deploys a string synthesiser to good effect on “The Romantic Church” as Atzmon recreates something of the atmosphere of his Charlie Parker with Strings inspired recording “In Loving Memory of America”. The string sounds underscore Atzmon’s first alto solo before the versatile keyboard player switches to lyrical acoustic piano for a short solo before linking up well with his leader as Atzmon’s sax comes to the fore once more. “I am Old Fashioned, an Honorary Knight of the Romantic Church” declares Atzmon in his sleeve notes.

At a little over eleven minutes “Let Us Pray” is the lengthiest track on the album, an even deeper excursion into the spiritual style jazz of John Coltrane.  Atzmon features on soprano, musing at considerable length above a flexible modal style rhythmic backdrop and gradually ratcheting up the tension as the piece proceeds. At his most impassioned his playing is more than a match for that of one of his primary influences. Harrison, on piano, then constructs an excellent gospel flavoured solo, a towering musical edifice that emphasises his own considerable abilities.

The relatively brief “The Song” is another lament, a further evocation of the bitter sweet nostalgia that imbues much of this album. Atzmon features on accordion but the featured soloist is Stavi with a highly melodic but deeply resonant double bass solo.

Also relatively brief “To Be Free” initially maintains the wistful, nostalgic mood, this time courtesy of the plaintive wail of Atzmon’s soprano and the sensitive accompaniment of the band. There’s also a knotty passage of piano from Harrison on a piece that subsequently toys with the crumbling structures of free jazz, a development that lends a double meaning to the title.

“For Moana” is Atzmon’s musical love letter to the charms of the late Italian TV personality and one time porn star Moana Pozzi who died in 1994 aged just 33. “My Vintage Romantic Heroine” is Atzmon’s description of a controversial figure who, back in the day, slept with many of Italy’s leading political figures.  Even if the subject of its devotion remains provocative the tune itself is a beautiful and richly emotive love song with a genuine sense of romance and yearning courtesy of the combination of Atzmon’s unexpectedly tender sax and Harrison’s gently flowing piano plus the sympathetic support of Stavi and Higginbottom.

With the exception of the powerful opener and the more animated parts of “Let Us Pray” the prevailing mood of the album thus far has been reflective and nostalgic. However humour has long been part of Atzmon’s music and especially his live shows. However a number of pieces on previous albums have highlighted “the funny Gilad”  but this is the first time that this role has been fulfilled by the title track. “The Whistle Blower” extends the idea of the metaphor of the wolf whistles that used to be directed at Moana Pozzi. Featuring the voices of all the members of the OHE plus the vocals of guests Tali Atzmon (Gilad’s wife) and Antonio Feola the piece is a gloriously daft slice of cabaret style warbling complete with wolf whistles and Gilad on accordion.
Tagged on at the end of the record the tune represents a little light relief and I assume that it will also represent the closing item of the quartet’s live shows on their current tour.

“The Whistle Blower” maintains the high standard established by previous OHE releases as it continues to explore Atzmon’s themes of love, loss and belonging. Expertly recorded by a top notch engineering team the mix ensures that all four musicians sound good throughout, something we’ve come to expect from this highly skilled and tightly knit ensemble. I liked the contribution of new boy Chris Higginbottom, particularly his distinctive cymbal work.

Review By Peter Bacon @ The Jazzbreakfast

http://thejazzbreakfast.com

(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:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Gilad.co.uk (download)

Fanfare.website

  • 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.   

Gilad takes the listener from the hinterlands of jazz, as occupied in former times by the likes of Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and Roland Kirk, through to the crossover territory favoured by many contemporary alt-jazz outfits. Along the way, and to keep the diehard mainstreamers onside, he throws in a couple of standards for good measure. Not that there is anything standard or mainstream to his approach, but more of that later.

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Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble @ The Crypt

The Crypt, an uncompromising, “properly” dark venue hosts Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble on a cold and drizzly Friday night in South-East London.
This is a venue for hardcore fans and diners, there is just about enough to see where one is going, especially if one is heading towards the bar or the toilets. But… this is the beauty and fascination of the place: beautifully sinister with walls as thick as a proper crypt should have. The clientèle that has gathered for the night’s performance is other-worldly.

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