Uri Gurvich ‘Kinship’ (Jazz Family) 5/5

Israeli born, New York resident, saxophonist/composer Uri Gurvich is an adventurous and fresh voice in the world of jazz, and this, his third release, marks him out as one of the most exciting musicians I have had the pleasure of listening to in some time.

There is a natural flow to Gurvich’s performance here, reminding me at times of the masterful playing of Michael Brecker. And with a wonderful line-up of fellow musicians; Bulgarian bassist Peter Slavov (a member of Joe Lovano’s ‘Us Five’), Cuban drummer Francisco Mela (who holds the drum chair in the McCoy Tyner Trio) and Argentinian pianist Leo Genovese (known for his work with Esperanza Spalding), this multi-cultural quartet transcends boundaries and serves up a stunning menagerie of unpretentious yet intelligently written and deftly performed contemporary jazz.

The music throughout “Kinship” has an organic feel to it. I’d imagine this is partly due to the fact that this quartet have now been working together for ten years, with the resulting connectivity and understanding an obvious benefit for anyone who listens, but also their multicultural heritage appears to run through the music itself, like the life-blood running through their veins, there appears to be an almost unparalleled shared respect and confidence that shines through in the music they make together.

This recording deals with the different meanings of “kinship”, whether celebrating family and folkloric traditions, or reflecting on various aspects of kin relations. There is a genuine warmth in the music that I believe is there for all to witness. The music also deals with differences, diversions or uniqueness in society due to belonging to a certain group or tribe, and to this end, one can also hear a certain edginess combined with a questioning and searching attitude that speaks volumes of the band-leader’s compositions along with the foursome’s willingness and joy in stretching out and making the music work on such a high level.

Highlights, of which there are many, include the album opener “Song for Kate”, a melodically free-flowing tune that was written by Gurvich for his wife. “Dance of the Nanigos” is a fascinating piece that draws inspiration from Cuban culture and more specifically the Nanigos, members of the secret Afro-Cuban Abakua society. The celebratory “Go Down Moses” has to be the perfect jazz number; a beautiful melody combines with exhilarating performances to create a quite spellbinding piece of music. “Kinship” the title track, owes more than a touch to Coltrane, with its spiritual essence soaring and bringing out some true emotion from the saxophonist. And indeed, the wonderful “Ha’im Ha’im” was influenced by Coltrane’s composition “Spiritual”, with its folk-blues-gospel sensibilities underpinning all that sparkles.

Uri Gurvich has produced a wonderful album with “Kinship”. He is the real deal. Sublime, graceful playing, with a style that can move and excite the listener all within the space of a few seconds. Glorious writing and a killer band make this an album any jazz lover should really stick their neck out and just go and purchase.

Mike Gates