Gilad Atzmon and Orient House Ensemble ‘Songs of the Metropolis’ (World Village) 4/5

For this latest album, the seventh recorded with the Orient House Ensemble, saxophonist Gilad Atzmon has chosen to devote the album to a virtual all original set of compositions depicting in musical form some of the key cities in the world, with a more general fresco of Italy and a refreshing and, at over ten minutes, a towering reworking of the English folk tune ‘Scarborough Fair’. The result is a beautifully balanced recording that covers the myriad flavours of global metropolises and, after working together for some thirteen years, the cohesive nature of the ensemble sound is beyond dispute. Thus there is a plaintive perfomance from Gilad on alto devoted to ‘Buenos Aires’ which has all the feel of a late night session on the Avenida Corrientes after browsing the second hand bookstores while in stark contrast all the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple is conveyed in ‘New York’ with Gilad here on soprano and the piece is full of energy and life. Paris, needless to say, is the capital of romance, and the old-time approach of the band here fits the mood to absolute perfection with a delicate piano solo from Frank Harrison and Gilad operating on clarinet. For all the wonderful attempt to successfully capture the essence of the numerous cities, the album’s crowning glory remains ‘Scarborough Fair’; which is an unusual vehicle for a jazz musician (though no less than Paul Desmond devoted an entire album towards revisiting the Simon and Garfunkel classic in a jazz idiom). Gilad Atzmon and the band will be embarking on an extensive UK tour that takes in no less than forty dates so there will be ample opportunity to hear them live. Tim Stenhouse

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