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New Blues by Third World Love

The internationalism of jazz has accounted for much of its innovation for at least the past decade. A restless and protean art form, jazz in hindsight may be described in improvisational terms that are responsible for its constant renewal and its avoidance of rigid categorization as it absorbs new and sometimes disparate elements. Third World Love came into existence through such a global outlook.

Three of the quartet’s musicians moved from Israel to New York City where they immersed themselves in the city’s jazz scene, which JazzTimes says experienced in 2007 "a tidal surge" of talent from that country. Yet the members of Third World Love didn’t perform as a group until New Yorker Daniel Freedman joined them in Barcelona, Spain in 2004. Since that time, they have recorded four CD’s, not to mention performing to much acclaim and excitement around the world. New Blues, Third World Love’s latest release, suggests the influence of the world’s cultures upon the members as it includes a broad assortment of styles, including flamenco, Arabic modes, American blues, Sephardic meters, Eastern European ornaments, jazz changes, European classical references and Afro-Caribbean percussiveness.

In collaborative spirit, the members of Third World Love have contributed the songs to be recorded on the CD. Despite the differences in authorship, the music remains remarkably consistent throughout it, not only because of the readily identifiable colors created through the instrumentation, but also due to the shared feeling inspiring the compositions. The CD opens with bassist Omer Avital’s "Joy of Life," a three-four theme simply stated during its two-minute introduction, made especially appealing by pianist Yonatan Avishai’s, and then trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s, folkloric solo statements that strip the song to its melodic essence. Then, Avital expands upon the basic motive during the eight-minute presentation of "Joy of Life" as the rhythms become more complex and the harmonies veer between minor and major. Despite the underlying energy propelling the piece, as well as the invigorating improvisation, the group plays with firm control of the music, never over-dramatizing the narrative with excessive crescendos or jabbing accents, and "Joy of Life" remains as light and flowing as Avital intended it to be.

Then, Freedman adds what seems to be a fairly conventional piece, "Little Echo," ambling and amiable in its block-chorded stroll and complete with little high-treble accents.... until the group, as if spontaneously, inserts a reggae rhythm for enlivening effect before it settles back into its cushioned ending. Lest one assume that Freedman’s interests lie solely in direct unvarnished melodies, he supplies contrast by writing "La Camerona," based upon a confluence of samba and flamenco sensibilities that still remain intriguing while being understated. Once again, Cohen’s trumpet work is burnished, and his solo is naturally structured to expand upon the possibilities of the melody and immersed in feeling that elucidates the thought the Freedman composed.

Cohen’s three compositions range from the apparently Satie-influenced "Gigi et Amelie" with its lilting and still deceptively simple three-four melody to the vamp-based and jaunty "Nature’s Dance" to the piece that gives the CD its name: "New Blues." A few words are needed about "New Blues," in addition to the intriguing cleverness of its title and the joy inherent in the quartet’s playing of the piece. With an introductory minimally dissonant two-note off-beat scamper reminiscent of Chick Corea’s sometimes puckish style of charming an audience, "New Blues" indeed does charm.... and it delights and draws in the listener with its spirited buoyancy, sprinkles of piano’s notes, and trumpeted smears and blares. Teasingly, the piece, while borrowing from the blues in its feel and twelve-bar chord structure, doesn’t merely set up a theme for successive improvisations. Rather, "New Blues" not only keeps driving through the written melodic composition, but also it increases intensity until its final free-rhythm breakdown into fading dissolution.

Avishai provides "Beauty of Death," a fragile, quiet song that originated as a free improvisation behind a poet who read verses about two brave souls facing death. Fortunately, Avishai later was able to transcribe the gorgeous, unpretentious song for recording on New Blues, where its slow musical meditation contrasts with the verve of some of the other songs like Avital’s "Hamina." The CD closes with Duke Ellington’s "So" a succinct, infrequently heard tune from his 1961 Piano in the Foreground album. Straightforward and devoted to a strong melodic presentation in less than four minutes, Third World Love’s interpretation, heightened by Cohen’s soft muted trumpet and Avital’s soulfulness, pays due respect as Avishai inserts some Ellingtonian stylistic allusions.

So, Third World Love closes another CD with understatement, which is quite a difference from the simmering "Joy of Life" beginnings of 61 minutes before. Unpredictable and un-categorizable, Third World Love remains omnivorous in its absorption of ideas from the countries its members visit. The synthesized and personalized results provide enjoyable

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Third World Love
  • CD Title: New Blues
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Anzic Records
  • Tracks: Joy of Life Intro, Joy of Life, Homeland, Little Echo, La Camerona, Gigi et Amelie, Nature’s Dance, Hamina, Beauty of Death, New Blues (Aint No Thing…), So
  • Musicians: Avishai Cohen (trumpet, flugelhorn), Yonatan Avishai (piano), Omer Avital (bass), Daniel Freedman (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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