By Sean J. O’Connell | Published August 2020
Five Israeli ex-pats living in Bed-Stuy sounds like the start of a feel-good movie. But these fellas are here for collective improvisation, rather than a new take on a buddy movie.
Bassist Omer Avital has been a fixture on the New York scene for more than 25 years and nods to the past with “It’s All Good (Late ’90s).” It’s a laid-back shuffle that features the band at its most casual. Drum breaks and vocal encouragement from deep in the mix spotlight pianist Eden Ladin’s soulful hands; saxophonists Asaf Yuria and Alexander Levin pop with tight staccato support and unadorned blues. But up until that tune, the band is charging at full speed. With a wailing, reedy front line, “Shabazi,” the album opener, arrives at full-tilt as a fluttering blend of tight harmonies soar over drummer Ofri Nehemya’s pummeling sticks. Avital, who wrote all the material here, supplies strong melodies and intricately structured tunes that defy expectation, the music moving from hard-bop to complex African grooves. Solos arrive unexpectedly, the featured musicians offering refreshingly unpredictable moments. Qantar’s acoustic sounds acknowledge history, but add a unique, forward-thinking approach worthy of any listener’s time.
New York Paradox: Shabazi; Zohar Smiles; New York Paradox; Just Like The River Flows; It’s All Good (Late ’90s); Today’s Blues; C’est Clair; Bushwick After Dark. (59:53)
Personnel: Omer Avital, bass; Asaf Yuria, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Alexander Levin, tenor saxophone; Eden Ladin, piano; Ofri Nehemya, drums.