Nitai Hershkovits ‘I Asked You a Question’ DIG (Time Grove Selections) 4/5

nitai-hershkovitsI was really quite surprised by this album. “I Asked You a Question” is part of a series, Time Grove Selections, in which Israeli beatmaker Rejoicer teams up with Jazz musicians to collaborate in the space where Jazz meets electronics. Hershkovits is a young Jazz pianist, who’s probably best known for performing and recording with fellow Israeli Avishai Cohen (bassist).
Having absorbed the press release and done a bit of research my head was full of preconceptions when I started listening to the album on my daily commute to work. It wasn’t until I started playing this at home with no distractions that I really started to get it.
The album comprises of 10 tracks, a mixture of instrumentals and songs. Typical of the beatmakers craft these are short pieces, no time here for extended solos. Hershkovits plays piano, Rhodes, various synths and Clarinet as well as providing vocals on two tracks. Rejoicer provides the drums and programming.
There are a number of guests, most notably Georgia Ann Muldrow and Kurt Rosenwinkel.
The result is a futuristic sounding world of subtle, sympathetic beats underscoring Hershkovits’ keyboard melodies. It’s electronic music rich in fluency and tone, at times quite ethereal, almost ambient. By and large the album is reflective, chilled you might say. As a consequence you gain much more when you are submersed in it rather than playing it as background music. Its music that needs concentration to reveal the full extent of its charm and there is lots to charm you.

The opener, and probably most ‘instant’ track, “Robin”, features Hershkovits’ plaintive vocals over blips, tweaks and beats. Think of James Blake or Sampha.

“Leaded Sanity” is as close as the album gets to up-tempo. Fast, almost drum and bass beats overlain with space-age sounding keys. When the drumming stops you are left with an exhilarating feeling of space and self-awareness, before the beats break the reverie and force you to focus again.

My favourite track is “My Turn”, an achingly beautiful piece of music. The tune starts somewhat mournfully with Clarinet and acoustic guitar before gently raising their spirits, giving way to Kurt Rosenwinkel’s intricate electric guitar. For me its not unlike Pat Metheny’s “Are you Going With Me” in the emotional response it induces.

“Ten will get you twenty” and “Rainbow Vs. Uniporn” are edgy jazz-fusion. Elsewhere I found that the chilled tone, at times, gave way to something less involving.

Overall though, the two worlds, of the jazz musician and beatmaker, combine in a wonderfully thoughtful collection of tunes that is refreshingly different to much else on offer. At present the album is only available digitally via the Time Grove Selections Bandcamp page and a physical release would be most welcome.

Andy Hazell