By Robert Ham | Published August 2019
The concept behind Change Of Heart is a remarkably simple one. According to the proof of concept written by saxophonist Dayna Stephens and bassist Tal Gamlieli, the idea was to “compose new music for peace ... without actually mentioning the word ‘peace.’” Instead, the two players wrote material that offers a ray of calm and beauty for our fractious times. Though they’d be forgiven for writing seven songs of anger and distress, the mood of the album is a soothing one, even when Stephens is winding out a spangled solo using an electronic wind instrument on “Check Point.”
At the same time, the album’s calm is a knowing imposture. The lustrous glow the band creates barely shades the elements of tumult kicking throughout. Closing track “At Least 37th Cousins” lets Stephens roll and sway beautifully, while drummer Amir Bar Akiva and pianist Chai Bar David sputter and backfire underneath. The main melody of “Common Ancestors” threatens to slip into “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” before the band pulls the thread and lets it unravel into a ragged beauty.
Every step of the journey is matched by Gamlieli’s liquid bass work. He’s a broker of understanding between the three other players on the album, connecting Stephens’ front-facing playing to the cracked elements of Bar Akiva and Bar David, and vice versa. Listening to him play off of and sometimes against the rest of the ensemble is what gives Change Of Heart its fuel—and its bold thread of idealism. What impact on the global community the record might have remains to be seen, but the music feels like it can move mountains.
Change Of Heart: Change Of Heart; Common Ancestors; Check Point; Just An Ordinary Girl; U R Me Blues; Familiar Melody; At Least 37th Cousins. (53:17)
Personnel: Tal Gamlieli, bass; Dayna Stephens, saxophone, EWI; Chai Bar David, piano, Rhodes; Amir Bar Akiva, drums.