Liz Magnes

Moroccan Moods of Gershwin

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In the 1990s, George Gershwin tributes were a dime a dozen in the jazz world. Many of them were competently executed but unimaginative and predictable; too many of the artists who were products of "hard bop academies" (jazz education departments with a narrow purist focus) were quite content to play the same old Gershwin standards the same old way. But Moroccan Moods of Gershwin is one of the more interesting Gershwin tributes that was recorded in the 1990s. As its title indicates, this 1995 recording finds Israeli pianist Liz Magnes bringing North African and Middle Eastern elements to Gershwin's work. But those influences are subtle; Magnes doesn't beat you over the head with them, and her piano isn't surrounded by traditional Middle Eastern instruments like the oud and the saz. Nonetheless, Magnes does bring Arabic, Jewish, and Turkish influences to her acoustic jazz foundation -- as well as a strong appreciation of European classical music. The results are consistently intriguing; performing unaccompanied solo piano at the Jerusalem Music Center, Magnes manages to make overdone warhorses like "Embraceable You" (which she performs twice), "Someone to Watch Over Me," and "Our Love Is Here to Stay" sound fresh. And considering that these standards have, over the years, been recorded by literally hundreds of jazz artists, that's saying a lot. Much to her credit, the introspective Magnes also embraces two Gershwin pieces that are usually overlooked; "Nashville Nightingale" and "Delicious" aren't nearly as well known as the other songs on this fine post-bop CD. In fact, it's safe to say that the vast majority of young jazzmen coming out of the "hard bop academies" have never even heard of "Nashville Nightingale." Moroccan Moods of Gershwin is enthusiastically recommended to anyone who is seeking a Gershwin tribute that is fresh-sounding and adventurous.

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