Though the term fusion has come to mean a very specific thing in the minds of most, the truth is - all jazz is fusion. Always has been and always will be. Through the early stages which merged delta blues, European classical and local folk traditional sounds, through today’s varied jazz sounds that are made up of way too many influences to even begin to describe. I guess on some level all music is fusion, from classical to rock ‘n Roll.
With this said, on Picture This . . .
, Mr. Yavnai’s second release under which he puts his own eponymous stamp, he seems to beautifully fuse together the straight-forward acknowledgements of America jazz, along with his Middle-Eastern and South American roots. Mix in his obvious admiration for the Cuban traditional music and you have the foundation for his innovative sound. In a world where jazz is finally getting notoriety and distribution, Mr. Yavnai distinguishes himself by his level of creativity and willingness to take chances beyond what might be initially seen as commercially prudent. Just when you think something might be floating in the familiar, Mr. Yavnai takes off in an unanticipated direction. This is jazz - at it’s finest -- without sounding like every other jazz album.
Mr. Yavnai wrote or co-wrote eight of the ten songs on the album and shows himself to be quite an adept songsmith. My favorite is probably the title track, Picture This, though his rendition of Paquito’s Merengue and Bach’s Fugue no.7 in Eb Major is quite compelling and quickly endears the listener.
Mr. Yavnai’s resume is impressive. Mr. Yavnai has spent the last few years as the primary pianist for Paquito D’Rivera and often also holds down the piano chores for violist Regina Carter. He is the winner of the 1996 Great American Jazz Piano Competition and has been in demand for many other artists’ live performances and has played on virtually dozens of albums in various genres. He has played with Yo Yo Ma, Freddie Hubbard, Marina Piccinini, the Boston Pops, Ravi Coltrane, Claudio Roditi, New York Voices, George Garzone, Oscar Sragnaro, Louis Hayes, Jay Leonhart, Mark Walker, Diego Urcola, Pernel Saturnino, Danny Gottlieb, John Benitez, Dafnis Prieto, Bob Moses, Orestes Vilato, Tania Libertad, Leny Andrade, Jay Ashby, Arturo "Zambo" Cavero, Carlos Hayre, Simon Diaz, Ben Tucker, Vic Firth, NDR big band (based in Germany), The Boston Virtuosi, Javon Jackson, Walfredo de los Reyes, Luciana Souza, Joe Morelo, Jim Chapin, and Leon "Ndugu" Chansler. Review by Larry Dane-Kellogg. Mr. Dane-Kellogg is a programmer/Disc Jockey on WHCJ 90.3 FM -jazz radio in Savannah, Georgia