Rotem Sivan Trio ‘Antidote’ (Aima) 5/5

“Antidote” is guitarist Rotem Sivan’s follow-up release to 2015’s excellent “A New Dance”. This excellent trio of Rotem Sivan, guitar, Haggai Cohen Milo, bass, and Colin Stranahan, drums, continue to impress and grow in maturity as a trio of note on this latest recording.

Music is one of the greatest healers known to mankind, and through the making of this album Sivan has expressed his emotions in the music he makes, confronting, coming to terms with, and moving on from the end of a seven year relationship. For me, the Israeli born, New York residing guitarist has now successfully gone from being “a very promising talent” a few years back, to one of the finest exponents of the jazz trio idiom, quietly coming of age as a unique voice in his chosen field of music.

Listening to Sivan play guitar, one might think of such luminaries as Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, or Pat Metheny (in jazz trio mode). But one of the things I really like about Sivan, is he plays with his own voice. And this voice sparkles with invention. He is undoubtedly technically gifted, but so much of what he does is wonderfully understated, leaving the listener to discover the beauty for themselves.

In bassist Cohen Milo and drummer Stranahan, Sivan has found intuitive partners that not only hold down a groove or create an atmosphere for the guitarist, but also push through barriers and bring added life to the composer’s tunes. Together the trio take us on a personal journey through the album’s nine originals and two covers.

Most of the tunes presented here are short, at least in jazz terms, but in this instance it works so well. Collectively and independently the musicians are at one with the essence of the music itself. Sivan’s playing has a rare class to it, one where each note has meaning, each note a depth of soul and reason to be. No note is wasted, and no note is superfluous. And within the combinations of these chords and notes, the composer reveals to us a different part of his character, all laid bare and open to the keen listener’s ears. The music is full of heart, performed with skillful quick-as-you-like lightning fingers and intuitively mesmerising melody and lyricality.

From the captivating and propulsive opener “Shahar”, to the exhilarating depth and inventiveness of the title track “Antidote”, to the thought-provoking intensity of the lone voice on “Rustic Heart”, to the opulence and intrigue of “For Emotional Use Only”, this is an album of truly defined thoughts and beautifully executed musicianship. There’s always a keen eye on tone and balance, the tunes themselves always sincere and emotive, yet at times playful and often invigorating.

“Antidote” is like snowdrops falling on a soft, lush landscape. Slowly settling and growing in-depth and beauty. These are musical snowdrops that heal everything they touch.

Mike Gates