The Omer Avital Quintet
Tuesday, February 25th, 8 p.m.| Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU
"He punches and twangs the strings, knocking fresh slang out of the bass."
—Ben Ratliff, New York Times
"For my money, Avital is one of the most exciting musicians to come onto the jazz scene in the last 20 years. His live shows are pure joy…This is hard-driving jazz with a new soul for a new era."
—Frank Alkyer, DownBeat
It’s hard to think of music more joyous than Omer Avital’s. The bassist came up amidst the vibrant scene at Smalls, the Greenwich Village jazz stronghold, in the 1990s. And even though these days he tours all over the world, in a sense he never left that storied cellar club: with his bobbing head, his blissed-out grin, and his soulful shouts, he’s still its most visible genius loci. NPR, who counted his Suite of the East among the top 10 discs of 2012, says Avital’s music is animated by “ecstatic playfulness,” his repertoire a seamless fusion of the “Sephardic with the swinging.”
Raised in a Moroccan-Yemeni family in Tel Aviv, Avital was surrounded by a diverse musical landscape: Israeli folk songs (Arabic melodies mixed with European harmonies), Yemenite Jewish liturgical music, Ashkenazi and Sephardic prayer melodies, Arabic and Mediterranean popular tunes, European art music, and American jazz and blues.
He began playing professionally even before graduating from Talma Yalin, Israel's leading high school for the arts. In 1992 he moved to New York. Impulse! Records signed him at age 26 and he recorded and toured with Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, Brian Blade, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Roy Haynes and many others. From its opening night in 1994, Avital was an integral part of Small's, where he led his own group, played in the pathbreaking big band of Jason Lindner, presided over all-night Friday jam sessions with drummer Ali Jackson, and generally helped incubate a whole new generation of musicians and listeners.
At the same time, Avital became increasingly interested in his own Arabic and Sephardic heritage. In 2002, he moved back to Israel to study classical composition, Arabic musical theory, Oud (the Arabic Lute), and traditional Israeli music. Since returning to New York in 2005, Avital has redoubled his creative efforts, writing diverse pieces around a core group of musicians. Recent projects include re-imaginings of traditional Israeli songs (often returning them to their Arab roots), Songs of Devotion (Piyutim) incorporating Jewish prayer melodies into chamber compositions, a Concerto for Bass and Orchestra, and a long-form piece for his Ensemble, Song of a Land. In 2008, Avital was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award, the most prestigious distinction for Israeil artists. He is also a member of the collective trio "Triveni" (with Avishai Cohen and Nasheet Waits) and the quartet "Third World Love" with Cohen, Yonathan Avishai, and Daniel Freedman.
Those last three co-conspirators are also regulars in Avital's quintet—Yonathan Avishai increasingly claiming piano duties from a busy Jason Lindner. On this tour, Johnathan Blake sits in for Freedman on drums, and saxophonist Eli Degibri subs for trumpeter Cohen, filling out the frontline with tenor sax giant Joel Frahm.
—Adapted from omeravital.com (©Abutbul Music)
Omer Avital will also present a workshop on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 25th at 4:00 p.m. in HSU's Studio Theater (Theatre Arts 115, left and down the hall from the Van Duzer lobby). People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend, and admission is FREE.
Words & Pixels:
Additional support for this show comes from Libation Wine Shop and Wine Bar, Rustic West Trading Company, and Les Scher.