Jahira, the title of bassist Hans Glawischnig's new trio recording, is an acronym for "jazz history roundabout." It's an apt one. This trio date, which features Glawischnig's acoustic bass alongside the saxophone of Samir Zarif and Eric Doob's drums, is a fascinating encounter between modern creative jazz and the development of the tradition. Jahira is startling initially, because its sound is very live, even raw. Much of this is due to Zarif's compelling tone on both tenor and soprano; it is essentially crystalline, but his disciplined and expert vibrato technique creates a unique edginess. The organic, extremely physical approach of Doob's playing, and Glawischnig's acoustic bass (which, because of its smaller size, makes chordal invention possible) add immediacy and tension along with harmonic invention. It is daring not to use a piano in this day and age, and the balance of the trio here is more than up to the task. Zarif's "Once I Hesitate" opens the disc with a beautiful melody that encompasses both klezmer and Arab folk music; Zarif's knowledge of the scalar intricacies and modes of these folk styles is nearly stunning. Doob's continually rolling snares and cymbals, and Glawischnig's creation of a second melody that directly underscores the primary one, make the tune a standout. The title track, with his bass creating the tune's primary rhythm, creates a tonal setting that allows Doob to accent and flourish on the pulse, and gives Zarif lots of room in an intricate, taut harmonic line atop it -- even when dynamics, time signatures, and keys shift and change. A reading of Sam Rivers' "Beatrice" has Zarif exploring the composer's tonal palette and breath control in ways that actually guide the interlocking grooves played by the rhythm section. Bud Powell's "Celia" takes the bop standard and turns it inside out; Zarif does an expert job of expanding its initial reach by skittering his run on part of the melody even as Glawischnig twins it note for note for a bop-on-stun frontline. Glawischnig's compositions, especially "Crow Point" and "Calabria," with their subtle yet complex sense of harmonic development, and the popping 21st century funky swing in closer "Shock Point," reveal the extent -- at least in a recording studio -- of this trio's possibilities as a working band. Glawischnig's extensive yet in-the-cut use of chords and single-string rhythmic statements, and Doob's slippery, elegant use of his kit to stretch time, add color, nuance, shape, and depth of field to Zarif's responsibility to "carry" melody to the listener. That said, it's the near symbiotic dialogue during improvisation that expands the trio's entire reach. Jahira is modern creative jazz at its most sophisticated, soulful, and daring.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek