Tal Gamlieli Quartet at Lily Pad

Lily Pad | March 3, 2011
By JON GARELICK  |  March 4, 2011

Tal Gamlieli Quartet at Lily Pad
TEAM SPIRIT Katsenelenbogen, Pignataro, Gamlieli, and Pérez-Albela used familiar paths to get to new places.

Sometimes it's all a matter of making complex things simple. Or revealing the complex depths beneath simple surfaces. Bassist Tal Gamlieli's quartet at the Lily Pad last night built a deeply satisfying set through simple means: clear verse-chorus song structures, beautiful melodies, bedrock grooves, imaginative improvisations. The band began their single late set with an atmospheric opening of Gamlieli's bowed bass, Eyran Katsenelenbogen's loose piano arpeggios, and drummer Jorge Pérez-Albela's rattling bell. But before long, they established a strong groove based on the Bedouin debka dance rhythm, Katsenelenbogen introduced the supple melody, and saxophonist Marco Pignataro joined in on soprano sax. They were off and running, and Katsenelenbogen unfurled some silky extended lines before Pérez-Albela moved to the cojón, the little "Middle Eastern" minor mode theme returned, and the band took the tune out.

Every tune offered surprises, dramatic dynamics, most of them written directly into the piece by Gamlieli. His "Hirhur" (which he translated from the Hebrew as "to reflect") was a medium-uptempo tune that lifted Pignataro's improvisation with its multiple key modulations — a cleanly shaped tune with, once again, a strong groove, and one fresh turn after another. "Hidden Path" alternated a waltz rhythm (and another fetching melody) with little catching vamp sections. For Pignataro's slow tango "Homesick," he turned to tenor, filling the room with a rich tone that opened to a gentle, broad vibrato on the out chorus. You could have tango'd, or even done a slow foxtrot if you were tango impaired.

There was familiarity in all this music, but it didn't sound like any other band. Fellow Israeli expats Gamlieli and Katsenelenbogen made a particularly good team. In the final number, dedicated to the Israeli pop pianist/composer Yoni Rechter, they played a duet in which they essentially finished each other's sentences. And Gamlieli's blend of Middle Eastern rhythms and folk melodies with American jazz was both personal and affecting. Just as personal were his firmly articulated solos — impressive examples of the bassist's art of making rhythmic invention indistinguishable from melodic invention.

This was a last-minute gig for this band at the Lily. (They followed the Bert Seager's trio's first-Thursday residency performance.) Gamlieli leads his own residency at the room every second and fourth Thursday; next show is March 10.

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