Oded Tzur – Here Be Dragons

Israeli tenor saxophonist and composer Oded Tzur has released his first album on the prestigious ECM label. Oded, who is working in or from New York since 2011 (where else?), debuted in 2015 with “Like A Great River” which was followed in 2017 with “Translator’s Note”.

Oded Tzur "Here Be Dragons"

It seems as if his new-found home at ECM has somehow earthed him, grounded him, since this release is much more connected and quintessential than its predecessors. We have lived with the album for a month now and the beauty of its content has not vanished. From the opening notes of the title track, its introspective stance, immensely melodious structure, almost hushed playing by the leader, this album sometimes comes across as Americana meets the Eastern world. Pianist Nitai Hershkovits is the perfect, reflecting partner during the opening piece, and Jonathan Blake‘s drum work is deeply balanced. Greek bassist Petros Klampanis rounds out the team on this beautiful piece of work.

Bass, piano and drums dance around a pretty dense theme on “To Hold Your Hand”, with Nitai exuding leadership and grace, before the leader chimes in with another Eastern (Indian)-sounding, sonorous interplay, mixing savvy ideas with contemplative patterns. It’s just beautiful music. And it’s getting even better. On “20 Years”, a gorgeously executed ballad, the measure of restraint is fascinating. Its healing force is immeasurable. The ten minutes fly by much too fast. It’s like a meditation. The three shorter pieces (“Miniature 1, 2 and 3”) work as some sort of intermezzo here, with a short bass solo on the second piece and Oded playing a longing, gentle and lush solo on the third piece.

The only track on this album which carries a sturdier tempo is called “The Dream”. It includes influences again from various origins, like Israel and Africa and loosens up the whole agenda. Surprise surprise at the very end of the set. “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, the Elvis Presley schmaltz, fits in astonishingly well. And of course, gone is the kitsch and the pretentiousness, in comes a wistful thrill, with the whole group miraculously interweaving the melodious patterns, conjuring a smile to my face.

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