There are things worth waiting for. Amit Friedman’s much-awaited second album, Long Way to Go, released on Dot Time Records, is definitely one of those things. Joined in by most of the Israeli jazz heavyweights from his previous album, Sunrise, the album is fresh and riveting from beginning to end. Amit Friedman has managed to create a cool, clear, melodic set of 12 pieces that showcase a variety of vibes and musical influences.
The album features a collage of musical feels, all held together by Friedman’s cool, fluid style. As expected, Amit Friedman remains unpretentious throughout the album, with a soulful phrasing that is fluent but never ostentatious, even when tackling faster tempos. He has a pellucid timbre which appeals to a large array of jazz aficionados.
The album kicks off with the track title, “Long Way to Go,” a smooth tune which, through the oud, meddles that Middle Eastern resonance so dear to Amit Friedman. However, Amit is foremost a jazz player and his solo is superb. His tone is clean, warm and has an unfeigned fluency. The fast-paced “Enough is Enough” offers an energetic and tense interplay between the saxophone and the piano before they delve into an upbeat groove. “Blues?” captured my ear. It is an enlivening tune with a catchy refrain in which each instrument is given a piece of the melody to experiment with whilst moving it along in assertive lines. “Human Blanket” must be my personal favourite piece on the album. The tune grabs me from the very first notes played. There is an all-surrounding warmth to Amit Friedman’s performance, reminding me why I loved his first album so much. The melody is mellow at first but then slowly picks up enough speed to jostle the listener out of his reverie. This is exquisite jazz, with a piano solo that tickles all the senses and a saxophone’s serpentine solo that sways eloquently.
Throughout the album, the band members enjoy repeating, answering and toying with each other’s phrases. Tunes like “Rona,” “Candombe” and “Shirupiri” offer the listeners plenty of catchy runs, great hooks and lilting grooves. “Abadi & Salt” is an infectious tune with a cheerful repetitive riff and is another one of my favourites. Once again, the solid playing between the piano and the saxophone is pure delight.
Amit Friedman doesn’t leave us without vocal melody, as the album features three guest singers. The lovely “Momento,” with its Latin vibe and which is sung by Claudia Acuna, a rising star on the New York scene. “Momento” is a pleasant juxtaposition from the previous spirited “Enough is Enough” and Acuna’s intimate and stirring vocals are an introduction to Friedman’s brief solo which only prolongs the seduction. The mellow “Silent Blue” with its Bossa Nova feel is sung by Tamar Eisenman, whose voice is flirtatious and finally, the feet-tapping track “Love Must Be the Way,” sung by Yemen Blues’ lead singer Ravid Kahalani and which fizzes with energy as it closes the album on a high note.
With such a potpourri of colourful tracks, Amit Friedman is anything but ordinary. He cements his reputation as a notable composer and master of his instrument, and offers us a listening adventure that is simply magnetic. The album is definitely worth seeking out.