Omer Avital ‘Qantar’ CD/DIG (Zamzama) 4/5

Israeli-born bass genius, Omer Avital, is back with an astounding new release, Qantar, which is bursting with vibrant energy.
The album is a collection of nine tracks, all penned by Avital himself. The quintet is a real powerhouse composed of young Israeli jazz musicians who have already earned their recognition on the international jazz scene. Their youthful spark and hankering for exploration is a perfect match to Avital’s vitality.

The album is filled to the brim with feet-tapping, supercharged action. It engages the listeners as it keeps pushing and probing, offering different types of grooves that are creative and colourful. This is definitely a tight-knit quintet where Omer Avital acts as a bedrock upon which the musicians can weave in and out of the melodies, taking them further and merging into a soaring and audacious manner.
Each of the band members offers the listeners snapshots of their musical personality and instrumental skills. Whether it is Asaf Yuria’s meteoric playing, Ofri Nehemya’s fiery chops, Eden Ladin’s sustained gracefulness or Avital’s expressive bass, they all effortlessly gel together to enliven the album with a playful sense of rhythm.

The album kicks in with ‘One Man’s Light is Another Man’s Night’, which gives the listeners a good indication of what’s to be expected on the album and its general vibe. The listeners right away know this is, once again, not going to be an ordinary album — but then, it never is with Omer Avital. Abound in creativity and the musicians’ interjections take the energy to another level.

The album is full of interesting moments — ‘Hamina’ with its Eastern undertone, the spunky, Head-bopping ‘Bambolero’, the more laid-back ‘Turkish Coffee Blue’ or ‘Cool Song’, a nicely layered piece and one of my favourite tracks on the album, because of the bass solo which cajoles the piano into playing before the whole piece is invigorated by the sax.
‘Beauty and the Beast’ is an elegant tune. I feel it is much more controlled than any of the other tracks, as if the emotions could burst at any moment, but where the band chooses to keep it almost soothing, giving the piece depth and tension.
Ladin’s introduction on ‘Immigration’ is touchingly pure. I like how it picks up and morphs into a pulsing, boldly smart piece, backed up by the sax’s rant. This, to me, is real jazz quality.
Equally beautiful is ‘Daber Elay Africa’. The piano and sax’s short consecutive solos add texture and substance to the repetitive theme.
Avital takes us on a final frenzied ride on the closing track, ‘Know What I Mean?!’. This is an uptempo romp, in which each short solo is a delight and keeps the momentum going till the last note, leaving the listeners wanting for more.

Avital is truly a passionate artist. His compositions are catchy and intense with an undeniable spirit of joy and adventure. This is an explosive album, in the positive sense, and a highly enjoyable one.

Nathalie Freson