Monday, September 28, 2009

Dan Aran, Lynch Pin of Israeli-American Jazz

OK, so there IS an Israeli-American jazz scene. What better day than Yom Kippur to bring it up? Drummer Dan Aran is an important part of it. His new album Breathing (Smalls) makes that clear. He can play some solid drums, lead a middle-sized ensemble from the drum stool, and makes use of the talent around him as well as his own in choosing a program of originals, standards and roots music finely arranged and performed.

The ensemble on this disk is in continual flux, but generally there is a front line of several horns (Avishai Cohen on trumpet being one of the most accomplished), plus some special sound color instruments here and there, like accordion and bassoon.

The music is contemporary with some bop underpinning now and then and some roots, like on the final cut, "Yemeni Prie," a very nice 7/8 timed piece based on Yemeni traditional music.

Those are the basics. For the specifics, you just need to listen to it a few times and you should find yourself falling in with its varied program and its delightfully solid musical qualities. If you want modern contemporary in the new mainstream and you have had enough of the cliches that can be repackaged and regurgitated from the Jamey Aebersold practice books and music-minus-one CDs, here are a group of folks who know that it's not enough to get the changes right and learn to string the "correct" cliches together flowingly. Not to take anything away from the Aebersold books. They are great. But they are like Wittgenstein's idea of philosophy. It is a ladder to get you somewhere. Once you've climbed up there, you don't need the ladder anymore. And that's when the real work begins. Dan Aran and his colleagues are way past the ladder and working on what comes after, what you put into the music after you get the basics down, with very successful and listenable results.

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