Omer Avital

Think With Your Heart

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Bassist Omer Avital is strong and conceptually ambitious on his debut recording. After beginning with an unaccompanied rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," he leads his group through eight stirring originals, as well as a 5/4 arrangement of "Stella by Starlight." The record is a sax-and-flute fest: most of the tunes burst with the harmonic richness of a little big band, thanks to the presence of Jay Collins, Greg Tardy, Myron Walden, Joel Frahm, and Jimmy Greene, at times all on the same track. Daniel Freedman plays drums on six cuts, Marlon Browden on three. Avital the arranger is more than capable of harnessing all this combined talent; what's more, he never falls back on obvious devices or rote solo rotations (there's usually only one soloist per tune). Some of the tracks run together as segues, giving the record a suite-like structure that increases its emotional impact. Stylistically, Avital is a sponge, borrowing from North African musics on "Andaluz" and "Marrakesh" (featuring Joshua Levitt on the nay flute), Latin on "Make Believe," even traces of bluesy rock on the somewhat mournful title track. The sensual "Tune in 'D'" defies all categories. In terms of technical mastery, Avital reaches the heights with "Flow" -- a riotously colorful samba reworking of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." It's also worth mentioning that Think With Your Heart is impeccably recorded. One can hear the full contour of every note from the bass, and, occasionally, gleeful shouts from the enthusiastic leader himself.

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