Nitai Hershkovits – Call On The Old Wise

I’ve waited a bit with this review because there was something in the air after the first listen. And one of the wonderful things about this solo piano album is that there is so much more to explore with each new listen. There is this profound aura of beauty surrounding the 18-track album by pianist Nitai Hershkovits. The Israeli pianist and composer first got me on the Avishai Cohen Blue Note album “Duende” (2012), then somehow fell off the radar for me, and then I’ve witnessed him this year at North Sea Jazz, where he played an unbelievably satisfying set with the great saxophonist Oded Tzur and his band. He’s also featured on Oded’s last two albums, “Here Be Dragons” and “Isabela”.

Nitai Hershkovits "Call On The Old Wise"

“Call On The Old Wise” is his debut album on ECM Records. It has to be inhaled in one piece, even though there are several compositions with rhythmic shifts which clock in between one and two minutes, but it all gels perfectly. It is amazing how his fingers fly over the keys for “Mode Brilliante”, one of the shorter pieces here. It twirls and sparkles in a light and airy way. There is this imaginative story unfolding on “A Rooftop Minuet” which starts out tender and soft, then continues with walking arpeggios. He paints this broken-beat picture on “Late Blossom”. Sometimes there are blues elements and free motifs, like on the fascinating “Intermezzo No.4” or the album closer “River Wash Me”. Yes, there is a lot of classically-inspired stuff here, with elegant runs and balancing chords. But together with lots of syncopated displays, Nitai squeezes in so many emotions and warm atmosphere to the mix which makes everything highly enjoyable. You get different rhythms and thoughts with almost each track and yet, the result is never colorless or unvaried, but rather heartfelt and somehow connecting with the listener in mystical ways.

I can’t get enough of “Enough To Say I Will”, one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve heard in a long while. Can’t really escape from its magic. “Of Trust And Remorse” is another of those pieces which simply flows along, never showing off a look-what-I’m-able-to-play attitude. There is pure and unadulterated joy on “Intermezzo No.3”. Brilliant tonal shifts on “Majestic Steps Glow Far”. And I almost forgot about the pianist and composer Molly Drake (mother of Nick), whose “Dream Your Dreams” is covered by Nitai with overwhelming elegance and romance and a somewhat subdued exuberance which is simply stunning. I don’t mention any other pianist here for comparisons or influences. And that’s on purpose. I just can’t come up with any other pianist with this kind of improvisational skill and talent.

“For Suzan”, dedicated to his piano teacher Suzan Cohen, shares his unique way of merging classical with ambient. “Single Petal Of A Rose”, the only other composition not by himself here, is another example of perfect restraint and finesse. I’ve never heard a more dazzling version of this Ellington piece. The grace he exudes on “This You Mean To Me” is awe-inspiring. Like this whole album, it deeply affects you with uttermost pleasure.

The album came out on November 10th, with the vinyl release slated for January 26th.


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