Gilad Atzmon Orient House Ensemble - review (4 stars)
- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 5 October 2010 22.30 BST
Gilad Atzmon's virtuosity, eclecticism, showmanship and ironically delivered politics are currently devoted to the 10th anniversary of his Orient House Ensemble: there's a 40-date tour and a new album. A shrewd pacer of live shows, Atzmon steered tonight's performance from ambiguous, unsettling microtonal and geographical drifts between the west and the Middle East, toward an optimistic, conventionally tempered finale on Wonderful World, pulled off without a hint of cheesiness.
Atzmon displayed his quavering, pitch-warping sound on the opening of the album's title track, The Tide Has Changed. But he soon cranked up the theme's staccato hook, then sprinted into flying double-time bop. Most of the other improv diversions came from pianist Frank Harrison – who, like his boss, favours deceptively oblique buildups to what become emphatic sermons – though bassist Yaron Stavi and new drummer Eddie Hick were the ensemble's steadily pulsing and sometimes roaring engine.
Atzmon played his mischievously sentimental soprano account of Ravel's Bolero before once again twisting the pitching to give it a pensive, discomfiting feel. London to Gaza was a melancholy ballad over bowed bass that became a flat-out group wail. A theme reminiscent of It Ain't Necessarily So turned into Roll Out the Barrel, and then into Mack the Knife, before a chattering Indo-bop vocal improvisation threw Salt Peanuts in for good measure. At the close, the leader turned to pure-toned baroque clarinet, veering into an east European folk-dance feel, and for an encore paid tribute "to our favourite Palestinian singer – Louis Armstrong". He announced that his heartfelt account of Armstrong's most famous hit proves to him "that despite Bush, and Blair and all those people, we believe it can still be a wonderful world".