Gilad Atzmon ‘In Loving Memory of America’ (Enja) 4/5

With a March UK tour already underway, Gilad Atzmon returns with a nostalgic homage to the country whose music he grew up with from labels such as Blue Note and Prestige to artists of the calibre of Miles, Coltrane and Parker. Multi-reed player Atzmon has made the UK his home from the mid-1990s and in his career thus far has focused on a musical melting pot of influences from bebop and Middle Eastern schools. Here the regular quartet belongs firmly in the former, but with the luscious strings of Sigamos String Quartet to add an extra dimension. There is an interesting mix of five standards from the great American songbook and six originals. Of the former ‘What is this thing called love’ is a quartet piece with lovely fender rhodes and the wailing alto saxophone of Atzmon. Taken at a slower pace than per usual, ‘I didn’t know what time is was’ is reminiscent of Charlie Parker with the use of strings and the sound of the fender conveys an eery ambiance while ‘April in Paris’ is more conventional with acoustic piano soloing. The new compositions hardly sound out of place with ‘If I should love you’ featuring an interesting use of drums on a quasi waltz whereas ‘Tuto Tango’ impresses with its selective use of strings and straight ahead intro before kicking into a tango three minutes in. There is a subtle use of electronica on a couple of cuts, particularly the title track, and a final piece, ‘Refuge’, that reminds us that Atzmon has not altogether forgotten his Middle Eastern roots. Accomplished playing all round.

Tim Stenhouse