Saxophonist and composer Ohad Talmor, now a Brooklynite, came to the United States by way of both Israel and Switzerland. He has garnered not only rave reviews but also peer recognition having played in the Steve Swallow Trio, the Mass Transformation nonet, and with artists such as Jason Moran, Josh Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Chris Cheek, Dave Douglas, Carla Bley, Paul Motian, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter and Billy Hart. Most distinctly it is his relationship with his mentor Lee Konitz, with whom he co-leads three bands, that has brought the young Talmor to prominence.
As a composer Talmor has had his jazz music performed by Portugal's OJM Big Band, Switzerland's Big Band de Lausanne, Brazil's SoundScape Orquestra, and the Brecker Brothers. As a classical composer he has written for pianist Martha Argerich, Sao Paulo's Symphonic Band, and the Porto National Orchestra. NewsReel is Talmor's first release as a leader and features his band.
Talmor is a saxophonist who is closely tied to the late work of John Coltrane. He does, however, show the influence of others, such as Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp and Konitz. This is not a bad thing. Coltrane's late music, while moving into the realm of free jazz, was always tied to the history and tradition of jazz's blues background. It is that movement towards something new, yet tied to the past and being reverential of what came before, that is so strong in Talmor's music, and it comes through in every composition.
This process manifests itself in a number of different ways. In "Tabla Suite" the searching occurs as both Talmor and trumpeter Shane Endsley weave sheets of harmonies around each other before taking the composition out with an exceptionally difficult through-composed stretch of ending melody and intricately timed ensemble kicks from the rhythm section that are reminiscent of music from some of Larry Young's more exploratory ensembles.
In "Americans Dream American Dreams" the same high level of compositional complexity is manifested, but here it is mixed with quotes highlighting failures and the hope for a better future in the American system from speeches by people such as Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama.
On "New York" a mournful single line melody is presented in shimmering waves by both Talmor and Endsley. In much the same way as Coltrane's "Alabama," Talmor has found a way to make a political statement that both reflects and looks forward at the same time.
One can't help, in listening to this music, but wonder if Talmor isn't on to a unique North American continental expansion of Coltrane's late musical conceptual framework. While there is no doubt European musicians like Evan Parker and Tony Oxley found great fertile soil in the late Coltrane period, Talmor has found a way to stay within the tradition of classic small group compositional complexities as exhibited by ensembles like the Second Great Miles Davis Quintet and Woody Shaw's quintets, and mix with those models a harmonic palette proposed by Coltrane. Few jazz quintets will make you think more than Talmor's group on this recording, and the listener is richer for it.