Daniel Meron ‘Embracing Wild’ CD (Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit) 4/5

For his new release, Embracing Wild, Daniel Meron is hitting hard. Though I have been occasionally following the Israeli-born pianist, this is the first album of his that I listen to and I am utterly enchanted. Teaming up with an international palette of excellent musicians, Pablo Menares on bass, Felix Lecaros on drums and vocalist Kéren-Or Tayar, Meron delivers an album that is forceful and graceful at the same time.

The album opens up with the title track, an engaging tune which throws listeners right into the mood as they get the first taste of Meron’s piano which is fluid, confident and vibrant. You know right away you’re onto something good. Starting with a refrain, intercepted by delicate classical intonations, Meron leads the melody into a sinewy jazz phrase which is eloquent and hued with colours and depth.

Morning Shadows introduces us to Kéren-Or Tayar’s modulated vocals as she sings in English on this track. This is a catchy song where Tayar’s affective vocals and Meron’s piano sway to and fro out of the melody in perfect harmony, allowing a piano solo to crank up the groove a notch.

Newborn, one of my favourite tracks on the album, is a gentle tune, full of light about to explode but which remains very contained. To me, this is a rather spiritual tune where the piano tiptoes as if it was to reveal the wonders of life. Meron’s unhurried approach is beautiful and thoughtful as it gives way to a bass solo which highlights the delicate melody before the piano reclaims its poetic flow.

In contrast, Flight Mode is an upbeat tune with a definite jazz vibe to it, like several others which appear later on the album. After all, Meron may include faint hints of various musical influences in his compositions, but the album remains primarily a contemporary jazz album. Toshba, Jolly Beggar and Limonada keep a stellar jazz quality while offering both lyrical and rhythmic melodies. Toshba is an engaging tune in which Meron delivers a frenzied piano that is delightfully interlaced by the drums. Equally, it is an example of Meron’s ability to delve into and create an aural experience that uplifts and rivets you, keeping on your toes and wanting more. Jolly Beggar is a softer, infectious tune which is as captivating though, especially as it gradually picks up speed. The piano retreats slightly to give way to an earnest bass before it takes it up again, sounding almost improvised. With Jolly Beggar, Meron succeeds in taking us along a cadence into which we almost get lost.

On Darkness and Light, Tayar soothes us with velvety vocals backed up by a scintillating piano. Though Tayar sings in Hebrew, there is no need to understand the lyrics; the song exudes so much warmth that its energy would be understood by all.

This is an album that warrants attention. There is something for everyone in it. It is an excellent project, full of light and colour, laced with softer and more head-bopping grooves that are carefully executed and packed with musical beauty. The melodies are evocative and have a magical appeal, rendering the album full of soul. I have definitely become a fan.

Nathalie Freson