on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2022 15 Mai

Oded Tzur – Isabela

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | 5 Comments


On Oded Tzur’s second ECM album, the Israeli sax player has delved further into incorporating his study of raga along with his love of delta blues to create a concept album that almost feels like a ritual. All the pieces seem ordered to take the listener on a spiritual journey. The music is devotional, yearning, longing, at times tender – at other times growling, the dragon awakens and breathes a hint of fire.  With his covered tone on ballads like Noam, Tzur’s sound brings to mind the gentle side of Charles Lloyd, while structurally (and sometimes even sonically,) I am reminded of Andy Sheppard’s deceptively simple musings, especially on Romaria. At other times a  fierceness emerges out of the dusky light, which brings to mind Coltrane’s prayerful late albums, although the hushed spell is never completely broken; the band avoids catapulting the listener all the way into the far reaches of chaotic ecstasy Trane explored. Almost everything on the album feels internalized, ruminative and meditative, except for the album’s energetic closer, Love Song for the Rainy Season.

Most of the tunes are modal; for the most part, primary soloists Tzur and pianist Nitai Hershkovits stay melodically within the structures but certainly not always: occasionally they stray outside the lines of the modal universes they inhabit.  Hershkovitz is a very agile improviser – his inventive ideas, culled from the blues, European folk tunes, classical Impressionism, Bach and everything in-between, coupled with an incredibly sensitive touch at the piano, impart his solos with sense of freedom and constant discovery. His gorgeous solo on my favorite tune on the album, the odd metered The Lion Turtle, is a good example of how he effortlessly combines all of these diverse influences into an integrated whole. It’s not easy to play over a modal structure and keep it as compelling as these two do.

Bassist Petros Klampanis is supportive and so right on the money, we scarcely notice his intuitively supportive artistry until his single concise, subdued solo on the Lion Turtle. Drummer Jonathan Blake has a tough job – he has to disappear into the music for much of the recording, although when called for, as on the aforementioned album closer, Love Song for the Rainy Season, Blake ups the ante and mixes it up with the fired up soloists, encouraging them to further heights with powerful flurries of toms and cymbals, culminating with a drum solo that is nothing short of majestic.

So much of music making is about telling a story.  All great improvisers are great story tellers. Everyone in this band is a competent storyteller, telling their individual truth, while at the same time, staying in tune with the collective. Note this is the same lineup as on Here be Dragons. This too feels like a band album. There is no egoic grandstanding here, just a commitment to humbly serving the music. And what beautiful music is. 


Oded Tzur, Tenor Saxophone
Nitai Hershkovits, Piano
Petros Klampanis, Bass
Johnathan Blake, Drums


This entry was posted on Sonntag, 15. Mai 2022 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    What a great and in some ways solitary album, in spite of its influences. The only thing I don‘t get, is the cover. Maybe someone out there who likes it and tells me why.

  2. Ursula Mayr:

    Ein Wald an einem See, Herr Engelbrecht, was fällt Ihnen dazu ein?

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Mhmm. Wenn das so ist, sieht der See seltsam aus. Ausser dass ich mich frage, was genau da zu sehen ist, packt mich das Bild nicht. Spiegeln sich Wolken im See? Aber egal, es verfängt nicht. I like much more the music inside.

    Still planning to let Marc Johnson‘ solo album cover take the place of Brian Eno‘s On Land motive. Blue, blue, blues, is the colour of the room, sang Bowie einst auf meiner liebsten Bowieplatte LOW. Und das Cover von Marc Johnsons OVERPASS ist herrliches tiefes Blau.

  4. Ursula Mayr:

    Das Wasser scheint gefroren zu sein, die Bäume sind aber belaubt. Ein Widerspruch!

  5. Anonymous:

    According to Tzur’s instagram, the cover is by renowned Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado. It depicts the Amazon River and Forest, side by side. This has personal significance to Tzur, as Isabela’s apartment was covered in Salgado’s pictures when they first met.

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