Thursday, November 10, 2011

Assaf Kehati Quartet, Flowers and Other Stories, 2011

Assaf Kehati, "jazz" guitarist and writer of interesting music for his quartet, has worked with George Garzone and Ran Blake, has a trio with Billy Hart, and lives up in Brookline, Mass., not far from where I lived for a time. He and his regular quartet emerged from the studio earlier this year with their second album, Flowers and Other Stories (AKJazz). It is a winning combination of lyrical tunesmithing a la classic ECM meets the spirit of Jim Hall and a winning performance by the quartet of Assaf, Alon Farber, saxophones, Daniel Sapir, acoustic bass, and Udi Shlomo, drums. Assaf has a very sophisticated melodic and harmonic sensibility. His guitar work has the sound sometimes of a middle period John Abercrombie and sometimes the chordal purity of a Jim Hall, though the end result is recognizably his own. Alon Farber plays notey contemporary solos that have a mellow coolness that can heat up in nice ways when the music crescendos. The rhythm team is very comfortable with the modern loose grooves that Assaf's songs call for.

It's a very fine set of music and Assaf's playing is very creatively lyrical. He strikes a nerve with his meditatively quiet lyricism and can crank it up when that is called for as well.

Flowers and Other Stories is a very beautiful album. It's accessible (my wife likes it, for example) yet there is nothing diluted or self-conciously pandering about it. This is the music, you can tell, that Assaf likes and needs to make right now. I'm glad he does! It's joyous and tender. Assaf is a new guitarist of great poise, with impressive ears and flawless technique. Very much recommended!

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