Avi Darash ‘Nomadic Treasures’ (A.MA) 4/5

After delving into different genres, ranging from the Amsterdam’s Andalusian Orchestra, Mohamed Ahaddaf Quartet or contemporary jazz, Israeli-born pianist-composer Avishai Darash is back with a very exciting new project, Nomadic Treasures, under the label A.MA. Evolving on an ever-changing musical terrain, and in search of blending different musical cultures, Avishai Darash offers us a beautiful and inspiring new album filled with aural surprises.

The album offers a collection of original songs about all types of journeys and soul-searching, carefully penned by the Greek jazz vocalist Irini Konstantinidi and musically arranged by Avishai Darash.
Backed up by Daniele Capucci on bass and Joan Terol Amigo on drums, each member of this impressive group contributes to the album’s colourful musical landscape and in weaving a tapestry of moods and emotions.

Each song reveals a distinct atmosphere, taking the listeners on a different voyage. North-African hints can be heard, interlaced with strong jazz leanings and Avishai Darash’s graceful sophistication and endearing personality.
The album opens up with Gnawa Vibe / New Born, and immediately we are introduced to Irini Konstantinidi’s impressive tonal range. Her lower vocals later on perfectly fit this rhythmic piece. The album moves into the feet-tapping Strong: Meditation, in which the musicians engage in a lively repartee, before Avishai Darash’s use of the Fender Rhodes, which adds an unexpected twist to the song.
Irini’s voice is pristine; she sings with honesty. Her lyrics speak directly to the listeners. She sings about longing, introspection, healing, reaching out and faith. Her songs are candid and we can all relate to them as part of our life’s experiences at one time or other. She and Avishai Darash complete each other to a tee — her singing is punctuated with his creative outbursts without ever clashing. The music breathes, it is never constrained by a surge of notes.

Avishai Darash’s expressive melodies and playing are always entrancing. His solos are full of light. He mesmerizes us with his fluidity and vulnerability. His minimalist approach dazzles the listeners – he has a natural knack for playing the exact right note to convey emotions. He doesn’t throw himself into an innumerable amount of notes, played at high speed, which some jazz aficionados are looking to hear, and yet, he outshines himself on this latest album, offering us soft caresses and a magical pull that sweeps the listeners along the melody lines.

Verlangen is a touchingly intimate composition introduced by gentle drum strokes before Avishai’s playing waltzes in with elegance, while Taqsim jumps out with its desert echoes that end abruptly, leaving the listener to wander.
I am particularly fond of Avishai’s solo in This Is How the Story Ends for its depth and tempo, or in Who’s Asking for his fragility. Another one of my favourites is the melancholic How Introspective for its authenticity. Darash’s playing and compositional talent is eloquent, poignant even; it is cerebral without being overpowering or daunting. His music has too much humility for that and the listeners are never left indifferent.
Maybe the only thing I slightly regret is not hearing more solos from the bass or drums, but this is not the type of album that demands it. Avishai Darash’s musical essence is complex and this album only reveals one layer of it. All in all, Nomadic Treasures is a listening adventure, bearing much emotion in every song and Avishai Darash is a name to watch as he continues his ascent into the musical and artistic world.

Nathalie Freson