The one-hour showcase concert was announced on a very short notice so that’s why this trio from Israel was playing before a half-empty room at A-Trane yesterday. Singer Irit Dekel, accordionist and pianist Eldad Zitrin and drummer and percussionist Elat Cohen Bonen are interpreting well-known standards in a quiet unusual way, not only because of the particular instrumentation but the arrangements are very special, too.
Imagine oriental sounds meeting triphop meeting the Great American Songbook. They opened their set with the Jobim classic “No More Blues” and it was clear from the start that Irit’s way of interpreting the lyrics would be very literal and cynical. When she starts to belt out “Get Happy” in the middle of the Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler standard, you better obey. It’s a very far cry from the Ella Fitzgerald version from her Harold Arlen songbook album from 1961, for example. Eldad’s accordion and piano playing was original and matched well with the overall concept.
“Willow Weep For Me” and “Good Morning Heartache” come along with synth and keys layers and also include heavily percussive elements. Some of it was a bit distracting because it was pre-recorded and I was missing a bass player from time to time. “Skylark”, originally inspired by Maxine Sullivan‘s version, has a beautiful, sweet arrangement with both Irit and Eldad on vocal duties. “You’re My Thrill” kept the haunting story intact, but the concept didn’t really work out on the Murray Grand/Elisse Boyd drama “Guess Who I Saw Today” which to me was done in an excessively exaggerated way. The subtle lyrics work best in the hidden sarcasm of a Carmen McRae (1957 on her “Afterglow” album) or even in the desperately disappointed and heartily deceived tale of Nancy Wilson (1960 on her “Something Wonderful Capitol LP). Irit was displaying a verytense posture throughout the set.
Bette Midler‘s “The Rose” and the Grace Jones-inspired “Libertango (I’ve Seen That Face Before)” both get fashionable updates and the Everly Brothers hymn “Bye Bye Love” is treated as a stretched-out plea for the state of loneliness.