All About Jazz- Album Review
Gilad Atzmon And The Orient House Ensemble: Songs Of The Metropolis (2013)
The metropolis is central to the life of a jazz musician. It's where the work is, where the conservatories are, where the music emerged and developed. Gilad Atzmon, the saxophonist and composer who's been described as the hardest working man in UK jazz, writes that Songs Of The Metropolis is "A pursuit of the sound of the city." It's a pursuit that takes him to seven of the world's most famous cities, to a small English seaside town and to "Somewhere In Italy." It proves that there is no single sound of the city, but the plethora of sounds Atzmon discovers are vibrant and beautiful.
The Orient House Ensemble formed in 2000: this lineup has been in existence since 2009, when drummer Eddie Hick replaced Asaf Sirkis. Atzmon has previously looked to the cities of the world for inspiration—Baghdad, London and New York have all found their way into his song titles—but never before have they been so central to one of his albums. Each tune reflects a particular quality of the place, as envisaged by the composer and described briefly in his sleeve notes.
"Paris" is romantic, Frank Harrison's crystalline piano motif and Atzmon's accordion creating images of lovers at pavement cafés. "Tel Aviv" is full of energy and tension. "Manhattan"—notably, not New York as a whole—is funky, constantly on the move, Yaron Stavi's bass groove and Hick's percussion underpinning Atmon's flowing soprano sax. "Scarborough" namechecks the seaside town known for its jazz festival and for the English folk song "Scarborough Fair" which forms the tune's central musical theme and the starting point for Atzmon's emotive soprano sax solo.
Atzmon describes "Buenos Aires" as being "for the pathos" and that's certainly the overwhelming sensation the tune produces. Stavi's arco bass establishes the downbeat mood which Atzmon and Harrison develop with real passion: it's beautiful though not always comfortable listening.
The musical journey ends in "Berlin." It's the lightest, most upbeat, tune: a waltz-time bierkeller number with a cheery vocal chorus from the band, Harrison's glockenspiel and Atzmon's accordion all adding to the general gaiety.
Songs Of The Metropolis is fiery, reflective, beautiful and funny. It re-affirms Atzmon's place as a major musician and the Orient House Ensemble's stature as one of the scene's most enduring and exciting bands.
Track Listing: Paris; Tel Aviv; Buenos Aires; Vienna; Manhattan; Scarborough; Moscow; Somewhere In Italy; Berlin.
Personnel: Gilad Atzmon: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, accordion, vocals; Frank Harrison: piano, Fender Rhodes, harmonium, synthesizer, glockenspiel, vocals; Yaron Stavi: double bass, vocals; Eddie Hick: drums, vocals.