Post-bop has a long history of incorporating Latin music (especially Afro-Cuban and Brazilian) and Middle Eastern music. In fact, the modal jazz explosion of the late 1950s and '60s came about when trailblazers like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Yusef Lateef took up the type of modal/scalar improvisation (as opposed to the chordal improvisation of bop or the melody-based improvisation of swing) that had existed for centuries in the Middle East, North Africa, India, and parts of Eastern Europe. But one thing that isn't all that common is post-bop albums that, in an overt fashion, incorporate Latin and Middle Eastern elements simultaneously -- which is what Jerusalem-born trombonist/bandleader Rafi Malkiel often does on Water, his second album as a leader. Water is an entirely self-composed, acoustic post-bop/world jazz date that is as mindful of Middle Eastern music as it is of Latin music. There are Arabic influences on this 2009 recording, but Malkiel gets even more inspiration from traditional Jewish/Israeli music, and on the Latin side, his influences are mainly tropical. Salsa/Afro-Cuban elements are part of the picture along with cumbia, a rhythm that originated in Colombia and is wildly popular in the Spanish-speaking countries of South America, as well as in Mexico (where norteño, banda, and duranguense artists have been playing cumbia with an overtly Mexican spin). And there are less prominent influences on Water, ranging from reggae to Spanish flamenco. But as many chances as Malkiel takes, this 55-minute CD never sounds confused or unfocused. Quite the opposite is true; Malkiel, who oversees a medium-sized ensemble, brings a sense of purpose to his material. Water is an excellent album that world jazz enthusiasts should not overlook.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson