by Ian Mann
June 17, 2021
An impressively diverse album that borrows from both the Israeli and American musical traditions and which represents a good snapshot of Mor’s musical influences and of his musical journey thus far.
“After The Real Thing”
(Ubuntu Music - UBU0081)
Roy Mor- piano, Fender Rhodes, Amos Hoffman – oud, guitar, Myles Sloniker, Marty Kenny, Joel Kruzic – bass, Itay Morchi, Peter Traunmueller, Jeremy Dutton – drums, Davy Lazar – flugelhorn
Roy Mor is an Israeli born pianist and composer who studied at the International Center for Creative Music in Jerusalem before moving to the US to further his musical education at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York.
A frequent award winner, Mor has now returned to his native Israel but retains close ties with New York and “After The Real Thing”, his début album as a bandleader was recorded at Bass Hit Recording in Brooklyn and features a number of New York based musicians.
The album features a core quartet of Mor, guitarist and oud player Amos Hoffman, bassist Myles Sloniker and drummer Itay Morchi, with other players coming in on individual tracks.
During his time in New York Mor played with many of that city’s leading jazz musicians, among them drummer Tyshawn Sorey, trumpeters Dave Douglas and Avishai Cohen, saxophonist Ben Wendel, bassist / vocalist Esperanza Spalding and many others. A more comprehensive list can be found on the ‘Bio’ page on Mor’s website, http://www.roymormusic.com
Since returning to Israel in 2015 he has led his own trio, quartet and sextet and with vocalist Abate Berihun co-leads the Addis Ken Project, a world music / Ethio-jazz ensemble. He has also recorded with Amos Hoffman and with flautist Avichai Ornoy.
Mor has played as a pianist with The Israeli Big Band and has written music for theatre productions. He also acted as a musical producer at International House in New York City, creating projects that helped to bring musicians from different parts of the world together.
For his début album as a leader Mor has created a recording that reflects both his life story and his diverse range of musical influences, these including jazz, blues, classical music, West African music, and, of course, the traditional music of Israel and the wider Middle East.
Mor explains the inspirations behind the recording in his album liner notes;
“This project includes original music I’ve composed in the last few years along with new interpretations of Israeli classics and standards that are dear to me, recorded with some of my favourite musicians. The songs and arrangements in this album were inspired by different people, places and experiences I had in New York City, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – some of the places I got to call home and which were part of an unforgettable journey”.
He has also stated;
“In some ways the music on this album describes my physical and musical journey from Israel to New York and back. These songs were inspired by various places, people and encounters I had in each of these cities and draw from the many musical influences I found there, from Middle Eastern music to hard bop, and more”.
“Looking back I guess ‘going after the real thing’ for me was perhaps leaving a secure position with Microsoft in Israel and moving to New York to pursue my dream of being a musician in New York City, the Mecca of jazz. It was something I had to pursue. And the journey continues”.
“After The Real Thing” features seven original compositions by Mor together with arrangements of two of his favourite jazz standards, Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness Of You”, the latter recorded at a live concert. The programme also contains the Israeli songs “The Echo Song” and “Do You Know The Way”.
The album commences with Mor’s arrangement of “The Echo Song”, an Israeli folk song credited to Yorahan Zarai and a hit for the Israeli singer Arik Lavi. Mor’s version features the talents of Hoffman on oud, a musician perhaps best known to jazz audiences thanks to his association with the bass playing Avishai Cohen on recordings such as Cohen’s 2006 album “Continuo”. Indeed it’s the sound of Hoffman’s unaccompanied oud that introduces this piece, later joined by piano, bass and drums. The focus is very much on melody, and Mor’s playing is melodic and lyrical throughout as he shares the solos with Hoffman. Sloniker and Morchi offer sympathetic and nuanced rhythmic support as the album gets off to an effective and evocative start.
The title track, a Mor original, features the pianist in a trio setting alongside bassist Marty Kenny and drummer Peter Traunmueller. This embraces a more obvious jazz sound, sourced from the American jazz tradition and embracing elements of bop and swing. Mor’s playing is joyous throughout and his soloing inventive and fluent, with Kenny and Traunmueller providing crisp rhythmic support.
The first three tracks on the album have all been released as singles and the sequence is completed by the Mor original “Jerusalem Mezcla”,the title meaning “Jerusalem Mixture”. The piece was inspired by the city’s Mahne Mehuda market and the music captures something of that institution’s hustle and bustle. Hoffman’s oud helps to create an authentic sense of place while Mor’s piano lines scurry hither and thither. Morchi gives a busy, and hugely impressive, performance, augmenting the sounds of his drum kit with a variety of percussion. It’s a stand-out track, and an obvious choice for a single.
“Nikanor” offers further sonic variations, with Mor doubling on piano and Rhodes and with the rhythm team of Sloniker and Morchi augmented by Lazar on flugelhorn. The piece represents a further demonstration of Mor’s intelligence and versatility as a writer, combining the melodic virtues of a jazz ballad with more urgent and contemporary rhythmic developments. Lazar gives an exceptional performance on flugel, his mellow but agile and fluent improvisations leaving the listener wanting to hear more from him. It’s a shame that he only appears on one track.
“Daybreak” is a short (just fifty seconds) solo piano piece, a meditative interlude that presages “Solar Re-imagined”, which sees Hoffman moving to guitar. This is another impressive piece of writing that sees Mor soloing expansively at the piano, his playing fluent and intelligent, but never overly flashy. Hoffman’s solo finds him impressing as a guitarist, and both front-line players benefit from the flexible support of Sloniker and Morchi, with the latter again an imaginative presence behind the kit, never imposing, but always adding.
The rhythm team of Kenny and Traunmueller returns for Mor’s arrangement of “Speak Low”, which begins quietly and ruminatively, with Mor’s searching and lyrical solo supported by the resonant purr of Kenny’s bass and the finely detailed drumming of Traunmueller. The music gradually gathers momentum as the piece progresses, with Traunmueller enjoying something of a drum feature towards the close.
Written by Ephraim Shamir “Do You Know The Way” features the core trio, plus Hoffman on oud. There’s a memorable, folk like quality about the melody on a piece that finds Mor and Hoffman dovetailing beautifully, in addition to delivering concise solos on their respective instruments.
The Mor original “The Follower” is introduced by a mellifluous passage of solo piano from the composer. Mor’s expansive lyricism is complemented by Hoffman’s cool elegance on electric guitar as Sloniker and Morchi offer typically sympathetic and intelligent support.
“Playground” is the only piece to feature just the core trio of Mor, Sloniker and Morchi and the piece possesses something of the joyousness suggested in its title, a lightly swinging confection with its roots in the American jazz tradition.
A third rhythm team makes an appearance on the closing track, a performance of Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness Of You”, recorded in concert at an unspecified location. Here Mor is joined by bassist Joel Kruzic and drummer Jeremy Dutton. The piece is introduced by an extended passage of solo piano from the leader, delicate, lyrical and ruminative. Kruzic and Dutton later add understated support on double bass and brushed drums in this classic jazz ballad performance.
With its varied instrumentation and mix of musical styles this is an impressively diverse album that borrows from both the Israeli and American musical traditions and which represents a good snapshot of Mor’s musical influences and of his musical journey thus far. An intelligent but understated presence at the piano Mor is the glue that holds it altogether and he receives excellent support from all the contributors to the record. The pianist also reveals himself to be an imaginative and highly versatile composer with a real flair for melody. If there’s a fault it’s that it all seems just a little bit too polite at times, but this represents a very minor personal quibble.
This release introduces another exciting jazz discovery to UK audiences and maintains the high standards we have come to expect from the increasingly adventurous Ubuntu record label.
blog comments powered by Disqus