Avi Darash ‘Impermanence’ (Private Press) 4/5

12 cm digi-2-sides-1tray_OK.cdr“Impermanence”, by Israeli born pianist Avi Darash, was four years in the making and features the pianist in three different settings; solo, trio, and with strings. The album is written, arranged and produced by Darash, with Ofri Nehemya (drums) and Avri Borochov (double bass) making up the trio, and a string quartet from the Grammy winning National Orchestra of Netherlands “Metropol Orket” adding occasional strings. Darash has brought both his Israeli heritage and life in Amsterdam into a musical melting pot, but it is his stylistic and melodically rewarding approach to making music that stands out most. Darash is a relative newcomer to the world of jazz composition (not that you would know it from listening to this album), having been introduced to jazz when he was 16 years of age, when he attended his first jazz concert and was deeply moved by the experience. Having been playing piano since he was 11, inspired by his cousin Tal Ben-Ari (better known as Tribul Tul), it was the acoustic and classical aspects of contemporary jazz that later led the pianist to study in Jerusalem and New York, before taking up residency in the Netherlands, studying both jazz and classical composition. In June 2012 he produced a solo piano album titled “Piano Works”, which featured eight original compositions. “Impermanence” further develops his original writing style, enabling him to expand his themes into a trio and ‘with strings’ setting.

It is impossible (to these ears at least) to write about Darash’s style of playing without mentioning Brad Mehldau. And indeed, the great pianist has himself said of Darash; “Avi Darash is a gifted musician. He has a strong technique at the piano, and that gives him the ability to explore the very individual approach he is taking. I appreciate his commitment to nurturing and developing his own voice. He is already a compelling pianist for the listener.” And there are a lot of the Mehldau trademarks to be heard in Darash’s playing; the polyphonic style, the chordal progressions and a taste for the quirky and the melodramatic- it’s all there. This is clearly evident on his tunes, for example “Lullaby for Bendavid”, “Nothingness”, and “A Three Day’s Journey”. But so is his original voice, one which shines through and will undoubtedly grow as the pianist matures with both age, and experience.

It is often one’s experiences in life, and all the emotions that come with them, that have a way of making us reach inside to try and fathom the reasons, why’s and wherefores. Davish’s journey that led to the making of this album, has undoubtedly been a difficult one. He lost his mother in October 2014 and a month later was divorced by his wife who left his home, taking their son with her. As Davash explains; “I thought I was going through a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t touch the piano or do anything. I would go into deep meditations to figure out these emotions and finally I decided to go into a practice called Vipissanna, a 10 day meditation course done in complete silence. I went through deep experiences of outer body, outer consciousness, and finally the idea of the album came about; especially the name. Vipissanna is rooted in the idea of observation, observing one’s emotions, one’s rise and fall of feelings and desires whilst being a pure observer, seeing the constant flux we are in as people, our attachments and emotions we hold so dear to us without realising the suffering infused in that paradox.” And as a lover of music, and fellow human being, if you’re reading this, I now implore you to go and listen to track 7 from this album; “The Shepherd of Dreams”. It is such a beautiful piece of music that perhaps sums up best my thoughts on how wonderful this musician can be. On tracks like this, and on the marvellous “Morenica”, a new voice in the world of music is not only dazzling us with his incredible virtuosity, but doing it in such a heartfelt and thoughtful manner that it leaves this listener believing he is hearing a musician who is on a path that will lead to great things.

The writing throughout this fine album is at times innovative and is performed with a deft touch from all of the musicians involved. The drums and bass of Nehemya and Borochov seem to share an excellent rapor with the pianist, helping bring to life his intelligent tunes. There’s clearly a musical maturity mixed in with the youthful exuberance, with the tunes themselves never appearing to be introspective despite the composer’s recent experiences. It is as if he has found himself, both personally and musically speaking, and the music reflects this. All eleven tracks have something in them that delights, whether it be the well-crafted strings, the interplay between the trio, or the confident, uninhibited playing of the pianist himself. Reflective in parts, exciting in others, “Impermanence” is an album I will return to time after time, with each new listen bringing with it something fresh. There is undoubtedly much more to come from Avi Darash, and I very much look forward to hearing it.

Mike Gates