More On The Album

Reflecting on Freedom

Now entering its third decade as an ensemble, Hagiga's founder, saxophonist Alon Farber looked to Eddie Harris's "Freedom Jazz Dance" as inspiration and a theme for their 4th recording, "Reflecting on Freedom." Hagiga revels in the diversity of musical flavors and colors that make up the "Israeli soundtrack." With an exciting three horn frontline - reminiscent of some Dave Douglas or Booker Little ensembles - they draw liberally from Swing, Moroccan, Funk and Brazilian musics in creating their wide-ranging, highly personal sound. Farber's bold compositions reflect his years at the forefront of Israel's jazz scene - including co-founding the Israeli Jazz Orchestra & receiving the Prime Minister's Award for Jazz Composers - and his time in America while studying at Berklee, where he won the Wayne Shorter Award for Composers.

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Track Listing

Performers

1 Israeli Song 5:16
2 Reflecting on Freedom /Freedom Jazz Dance 7:08
3 Theme for Michal 5:19
4 Ima (Mother) 3:40
5 Fresh Start 4:37
6 More Monkeys, Please 8:58
7 You'll See the Way 7:49
8 Hammouda 5:15
9 Farbalak 6:00

Alon Farber - Soprano & Alto saxes
Yehonatan Cohen - Tenor sax, Flute, Clarinet
Oded Meir - Trombone
Eden Giat - Piano
Assaf Hakimi - Acoustic & Electric bass
Roy Oliel - Drums

Special guests:
Sarai Zak-Levi - Vocal (1,3,7)
Rony Iwryn - Percussion (1,2 3,7,8)

Production Info

Produced by Alon Farber, Yehonatan Cohen & Oded Meir
Recorded by Bill Tsur at Bardo Studios, Ramat Gan, Israel
on August 18-19, 2020
Mixed by Bill Tsur, Tel Aviv, Israel
Mastered by Aran Lavi at TanTan Studios, Tel Aviv, Israel
Band photo by Yossi Zwecker
Cover photo by Kieren Ridley
Cover design & layout by John Bishop

Liner Notes

The Israeli jazz scene is one of the most vibrant around. It is something of a quirk of nature, that a little country in the heart of the Middle East, with more than its fair share of existential issues, should constantly churn out jazz artists and combos of such quality and with such an adventurous spirit.

 

Alon Farber Hagiga has been at the forefront of that miraculous envelope pushing curve of Israeli Jazz for some years now. The group has chalked up almost two decades of intermittent recording and gigging, with Farber a mainstay as various personnel have come and go. 

 

The latter factor provides intriguing added value to each release. The change of pianist, for example, on Reflecting on Freedom – the band's fourth record to date, 5 years after New Directions - has pianist Eden Giat bringing in some delicate bluesy seasoning here and there, while Rony Iwryn enhances the Brazilian flavorings on a couple of occasions, and does so with aplomb.

 

There is, indeed, an abundance of cultural references across the nine cuts, from a spread of global sectors but, at the end of the day, this is an Israeli band. Then again, that almost amounts to the same thing. The predominant specific "Israeliness" about the charts is that they are all the product of the varified cultural melting pot that is the Middle Eastern country.

 

So, despite the opening track being called Israel Song, it is in fact a statement of intent that the listener will be able to follow the group through all sorts of cultural strata and ethnic-musical backdrops. And, for the first time, the Hagiga has a vocalist on board. 

 

That changes the textural scenario appreciably, and it is a curious choice. Youngster Sarai Zak-Levi picks up the vocal gauntlet and runs with it, delivering an inso

uciant melodic topsoil to the instrumental anchor and conjures up shades of some 1980s Israeli folk-pop sentiments. 

 

Theme for Michal, written by trombonist and longtime Farber sparring partner Oded Meir, sees Zak-Levi reprise that role, and references to some of the Israeli pop-rock sounds of Farber's formative years has the vocalist singing Shimrit Or's Hebrew lyrics set to a Brazilian-influenced score by Mati Caspi. 

 

Farber clearly created this as a vehicle for the tried and trusted folks around him, that include bassist Assaf Hakimi, who has been around the Hagiga block a few times over the years.

 

The stylistic spread dips into all sorts of rhythmic, textural and melodic areas, with the plaintive Ima (Mother), dedicated to Farber's mother who passed away in 2019, featuring Yehonatan Cohen on flute. It is a suitably emotive outing, as the flute spins out wistful lines that provide a bittersweet airy counterpoint to the reed-based instrumental platform. The tension ebbs and flows into meditative areas, pulling the listener down to Mother Earth before the flute seems to delicately soar heavenward. This is a complex stratified number, and is testament to the players' tightness and attentiveness.

 

Twenty years, four records and hundreds of gigs down the line, Hagiga seems to be going from strength to strength, lineup shifts notwithstanding. Reflecting on Freedom - which, incidentally, feeds off saxist Eddie Harris's 1960s standard Freedom Jazz Dance – is a high octane burner fired by a dynamic big band feel, with Hakimi and drummer Roy Oliel pushing hard and true from behind. Giat then drops in for a thoughtful sonorous solo before the rest of the gang come storming back. 

 

That, in a nutshell, is very much what this album and Alon Farber Hagiga are about. There is an alluring go-with-the-flow air about this outing, which stretches into Moroccan domains, bluesy Middle Eastern spices and plenty of nods to the time-honored jazz idiom. Sounds succinctly Israeli to me. 

Barry Davis

 

Hagiga has been at the forefront of the miraculous envelope-pushing curve of Israeli jazz for some years now.