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ALBARE iTD: “Long Way”(Enja ENJ-9582 2)

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The Acid Jazz guitarist Albare dropped out of public sight over several years in the past decade while his ‘daytime’ persona, Albert Dadon, worked passionately and tirelessly to become the major patron of the Australian jazz scene (creating of the Australian Jazz ‘Bell’ Awards, securing Major Events support for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and also contributing to the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative). But he never lost the passion for working on his own music, and since returning to public performance, Albare has produced three albums since 2007, each evidence of a continued upward trajectory in both his playing and writing. For his latest recording he journeyed to New York and formed an ‘international’ version of his Travel Diary band (iTD), and the personnel certainly warrant this qualification (both it terms of their diverse backgrounds, and their standing in the international music scene). 

Albare retained his long-time collaborator and virtuoso six-string electric bassist Evripidis Evripedou from his Australian ensemble, and they co-wrote all of the material. Both are great examples of the rich cultural contribution of migrants to Australia: Albare was born in Morocco, but grew up in Israel and France before settling here, while Evripedou was a Greek Cypriot. In a real coup they were joined by Mexican-born drummer-of-the-moment Antonio Sanchez (currently a member of the Pat Metheny Group), together with Argentinian pianist Leo Genovese to form the rhythm section. Boston-based saxophone heavyweight George Garzone (who is well-known here after several tours) adds authority and ‘spark’ to the project. But a pivotal addition is German born Hendrik Meurkens on harmonica (instead of the piano accordion in the Australia group). While the two instruments share a certain similarity in timbre,Meurkenscontributes a wonderfully expressive sound to the melodic statements, often adding a touch of melancholy (as well as impressively dexterous solos).

Produced directly by Matthias Winckelmann, the founder of prestigious German jazz label Enja, the overall well-crafted result takes Albare’s music to another more sophisticated level, without changing its basic nature. Albare’s music reflects his character: he is an optimist, and he does not produce ‘dark’ music (as he terms it). Some of the pieces here actually start with a bass pattern hinting at the ‘dark’, but quickly move into a bright and breezy mood (such as “Eagle’s Way”). Most of the compositions have a Latin feel, and the melodies often have a familiar accessibility except for their subtle, quirky twists.

Garzone is used strategically, such as on the title track, where he ‘lifts’ the band with a fiery solo over the samba feel. The track ends with Garzone and Albare exchanging ‘thrusts and parries’ over an energetic drum-feature vamp. There are no indulgent solos in the well-produced arc of this album.

This track takes the album in a different direction, and is followed by two melodic tunes and another Latin one. “Love Again” is a wistful guitar ballad, voiced with Evripides on acoustic guitar, and is possibly the highlight of the album. The last track. “Moving On”, concludes the album with another highlight, a genuinely catchy tune that should easily garner plenty of airplay.

While comparisons will be made with Metheny’s music (especially with Sanchez on drums), Albare has his own recognizably distinctive style and sound, and a certain Gallic charm. This album is the best manifestation of it so far, with the stellar personnel all positively enhancing Albare’s bright and sunny music. This is music which is very accessible to a broad range of listeners, but with a virtuosic band who can take it in any direction. Their concert performances in Melbourne and Sydney in their forthcoming tour promise an exciting expansion of this material. 

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