By Jennifer Odell | Published March 2019
Trumpeter Itamar Borochov has spent years exploring creative convergences of jazz and music connected to his upbringing in the multicultural Israeli city of Jaffa. Within those contexts, he’s become adept at using quarter tones and other elements of Sephardic spiritual music, along with the North African and Bukharian sounds he heard growing up, in various jazz constructs. Those influences, along with echoes of the Arabic and African-laced world grooves Borochov worked with in Ravid Kahalani’s Yemen Blues outfit, all filter through the trumpeter’s stunning third album as a leader.
The opener, “Right Now,” sets an overall mood to match Borochov’s dark and airy trumpet tone, with pianist Rob Clearfield, bassist Avri Borochov and drummer Jay Sawyer working in well-balanced tandem to offset the ruminative melody. The title track picks up where “Right Now” left off, then veers further East, courtesy of Avri’s oud. By the end, the bandleader’s tapped into a different set of emotions, building high-register lamentations against a rich rhythmic backdrop. It’s one of multiple instances where his expressive playing calls to mind singing.
That’s due in part to the economy with which he improvises and composes, leaving space for the listener—and presumably, the other musicians—to sit with the feelings and sensation each figure evokes. Something similar happens with the addition of several vocalists from Innov Gnawa on the gently stirring “Motherlands,” which turns on refrains led by a master of the North African spiritual music tradition. The tune also features some pretty interplay between Borochov and Clearfield, whose keys play off the trumpet like stones skipped on clear water.
The mood brightens again with “Garden Dog Sleeps,” a contrafact of “Green Dolphin Street,” before Borochov’s measured intensity returns with “Broken Vessels,” a standout for Sawyer.
Finally, Borochov’s arrangement of Rabbi Baruch Chait’s “Kol Haolam Kulo (Take Me To The Bridge)” sees the quartet return to themes of spirituality, balance and equality—along with enough space for them to steep.
Blue Nights: Right Now; Blue Nights; Motherlands; Maalem; Daasa!; Garden Dog Sleeps; Broken Vessels; Revolutionizin’; Kol Haolam Kulo (Take Me To The Bridge). (47:29)
Personnel: Itamar Borochov, trumpet; Rob Clearfield, piano; Avri Borochov, bass, oud; Jay Sawyer, drums; Maâlem Hassan Ben Jaafer, vocals; Samir Langus, Amino Belyamani, vocals, qraqeb.