While the publicity accompanying the CD, Think With Your Heart,
compares bassist Omer Avital’s leadership with that of Charles Mingus, a more apt comparison would be one involving Avishai Cohen. Both bassists were born in Israel; both served in the Israeli army; both pursued their musical dreams to New York City; both lead their own multi-cultural groups; both synthesize jazz with Middle Eastern references; both have performed with legendary jazz musicians; and--small world--both developed their music and first presented it to audiences at Small’s in New York.
The extroverted energy of both musicians, as well as their technical originality, creates such force that the bass, normal in the shadows of the back of the stage, dominates their groups with propulsion and adhesion.
Now, Avital--having backed the likes of Roy Haynes, Joshua Redman, Nat Adderly and Antonio Hart--has released his first CD as a leader, and a more personalized and honest record (in both senses of the word "record") could not be found.
Writing all of the tunes but "Stella By Starlight," Avital has established entire scenes--complete with not just straightforward hues, but also intricate details building comprehensive murals of sound--that recall scenes of Moroccan sunrise or natural tranquillity stirred by underlying pulse.
Avital’s instrumentation and method of arrangement are telling too. With no chorded instrument to set up changes, Avital instead relies on a reed chorus to evoke the thoughts in his heart. Allowing his reeds freedom of expression, Avital finds that they sometimes shift from one context to another with just the note placement of a single horn, like the internal movement of a piano’s chord movement. Even "Stella By Starlight" assumes a haunting sense of foreboding, Avital’s technique of metrical tension--an opposing and yet complementary rhythm animating the tune within the larger metrical framework--freeing the tune for unexpected possibilities.
Starting the CD with a solo performance of Bob Marley’s "Redemption Song," Avital lets it be known that his music assumes larger purposes--those of catharsis and healing--by delving into the spiritual basis of the world’s music.
And let us not forget that Avital is a superb bassist in his own right, trading fours with his drummers or setting up the complex rhythms of "Marrakesh," Avital being an ever-present driver of the music.Think With Your Heart,
a CD of appealing strength and outstanding musicianship, is quite unlike any other.