Album Review: Ari Erev’s Handful of Changes

Ari Erev – A Handful of Changes

Ari Erev, piano; Joel Frahm, tenor and soprano saxophone; Gilad Dobrecky, percussion; Arie Volinez, electric and double bass; Tal Ronen, double bass; Eitan Itzcovich, drums; Ofer Shapiro, alto saxophone and clarinet

“Changes” is a slang term that jazz’ers use for chord changes, or harmonic motion. How an improviser maneuvers his or her way through harmonic motion is critical in how they develop and differentiate their musical voice. On A Handful of Changes, Pianist and leader Ari Erev captures a special band to execute his (mostly) Latin-infused compositions. Each member adds their personal flair and posture atop his changes, but above all, it is saxophonist Joel Frahm’s voice that elevates this recording from pleasant, to stellar.

A Handful of Changes begins with “Open Possibilities”, a Latin groove with a haunting melody. The piece harkens approaches to other minor-key bossa novas (think “Recordame” by Joe Henderson) and Frahm even follows the Joe Hend-spirit of quotation by slipping a piece of Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm” into his solo (on album version only, not in video.)

Ari Erev’s piano playing is delicately executed. He is a safe, simple yet confident improviser. His voice leading and chord voicings—how he designs the chords—is particularity pleasant on “Irit’s Wave.” This tune, written for Erev’s wife, is one of three tunes in 3/4 time, and one of the few tunes on A Handful of Changes that is played in a straight-ahead swing feel.

Throughout the many this albums Latin-grooves, percussionist Gilad Dobrecky and drummer Eitan Itzcovich play a vital role in a filling out polyrhythmic textures. Dobecky’s sonic pallet seems endless; he enlists many authentic, Brazilian instruments. On “Step by Step”, Frahm’s modal driven double-time runs are fiercely complimented by the berimbau, a resonating metallic percussion instrument played with a bow.

Ari Erev; courtesy of Gangi N all that jazz

Erev lends sensitive and creative approaches to two waltzes composed by Israeli classical composer Alexander “Sasha” Argov. Erev’s piano playing eases into the changes, rather than dictating them. “Kshe’Or Dolek Ba’Halonekh” (translation: Light in Your Window) features Ofer Shapiro’s clarinet as he swoons and dances atop the pulse leaving traces of Klezmer. The other Argov adaptation, “Me’Ever La’Tkhelet” (translation: Beyond the Blue), is a rhythm section (trio) setting. The tune allows Erev’s chops to shine as he plays on top of the beat, propelling the music forward. In contrast, Frahm often lays back on the beat, filling a blues void with soulfully  inflected passages.

Frahm, an undeniable heavyweight of modern jazz saxophone, has been popular in Israel for quite some time. He has performed alongside a number of Israeli artists including trumpeter Avishai Cohen and guitarist Gilad Hekselman. According to Erez Barnoy, a conservatory instructor in Tel Aviv, high school students are even transcribing Frahm’s solos.

This is Ari Erev’s second release as a leader, and an impressive project indeed. Erev successfully uses and using his band as a vehicle to execute nicely crafted tunes. A Handful of Changes is the presentation of individual, inner beauty.

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