Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

September/October 2015: Vincent Gardner

Omer Avital

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Those of you who attended bassist Omer Avital’s 2013 performance at the Tarbut festival in Winnipeg will understand when I say that, hands down, my most disappointing music-related moment of this year was leaving New York City on the same evening that Omer Avital was at the Jazz Standard releasing his latest album, New Song. Never have I wanted so badly for a flight to be cancelled!

Of course everything ran right on time and I didn’t see the show, so when I learned about his quintet’s “Mediterranean Mix” concerts at the Asper Jazz Performances here in Winnipeg, I was stoked.

Omer Avital is a special performer. He captivates the audience, dancing while playing music that is joyful and fearless, with a band of musicians who are deeply invested in their collective sound. The result is relentlessly grooving jazz, influenced by sounds from all over the world.

Avital is Israeli, by way of Morocco and Yemen. His musical journey led him from Israel to New York in 1992, where he became a fixture at Small’s. He has become known as a master of infusing Israeli and Middle Eastern Jewish music into jazz. That’s the sound you hear with his current project, New Song.

New Song is a direct successor to his previous album, Suite of the East. Both albums call on diverse music from around the world. Drummer Daniel Freedman brings an Afro-Cuban vibe to some songs; at other times the band is pulled into a more Middle-Eastern groove with the help of pianist Yonathan Avishai. Joel Frahm, sax, and Avishai Cohen, trumpet, launch into harmonies inspired by American soul-jazz. It is a blend of sounds that really represents the global force that jazz has become. On top of that, the music is swinging!

Omer Avital brings a slightly different group to Winnipeg. Yonathan Avishai will be at the piano. The drummer is Hungarian-born Ferenc Nemeth, with newcomer Asaf Yuria on saxophone. Expect spark and imagination, and so much groove that you’ll be moving in your seat. Don’t miss this one!

For all of us who are intrigued by Avital’s playing, he will present a free masterclass on Friday, October 16 as part of the Desautels Masters of Jazz series. Stay tuned for details.

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