Something Else Album Review
Gilad Atzmon & The OHE - The Whistle Blower
Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble have been busy in their musical kitchen, cooking up a delightful menu for their listeners. Whether you like a la carte, picking and choosing tracks to suit your current mood, or to take a listen right through on the set menu, the result is a tasteful delight. Released on Gilad Atzmon’s Fanfare Records, The Whistle Blower was recorded at the Fish Factory studio in London.
The Whistle Blower is packed with different tastes, styles and moods. The opening track “Gaza Mon Amour” starts with a thumping Eastern beat and melody which transforms into a moody middle section with Gilad Atzmon’s always-dextrous sax conjuring up the feeling of a bazaar with all its mysteries and depths. The piano of Frank Harrison then introduces a classical topping, and the piece returns finally to the Eastern-inspired theme again. “Forever” is a sweet, gentle melody, the beautiful theme set by the sax before the piano takes it and develops it, then returns at the last to the original melody.
“The Romantic Church” takes you on a fantastical journey through majestic sax lines, backed by gentle percussion and bass lines with the piano once again soaring in the middle section. The piece is lifted by emotive playing from Gilad Atzmon, as he sweeps in and out on sax. “Let Us Pray” starts with a sax and drums entry, then a pause before first percussion, then the sax again repeats the theme before the piece develops — scaling up and up, soaring and taking the listener with the musicians as all follow the sax leads. “The Song” is short but very sweet with accordion, drums and piano creating a sense of a boulevard feel. The bass of Yaron Stavi soloes in the middle section and introduces a darker, softer element before the swinging, gentle swaying theme is allowed to re-emerge.
“To Be Free” starts quietly, with a heartfelt sax rendering, before the keys develop the theme and the track revolves around this. “For Moana” — a reference to Moana Pozzi, an Italian porn actress — is a quiet, free-rolling number made by the interaction of sax and piano. The Whistle Blower concludes with its track, and it’s lighthearted with some great vocals from Tali Atzmon and Antonio Feola. The song swings from a sexy introduction with wolf whistles and lazy, laid back singing from the band, an accordion, a bit of unison singing, a bit of background whistling, and a dollop of bawdiness.
The ballady feel to the tracks is reminiscent in parts to the group’s previous album, 2013’s Songs of the Metropolis, but the master chefs have added more ingredients and developed their menu. Listening to the album is like unwrapping a box of chocolates. Many have a familiar feel and texture but the hearts are surprising — sometimes what you expect, but more often not. Each listen reveals another layer, another ingredient which the chefs have added to create the final dish.
The listener is taken to dizzy heights at times before being dropped unceremoniously into the depths of dark rhythms and then lifted once more with a laugh and caressed with the magic of Gilad Atzmon’s saxophone playing. There is a certain rhythm and camber which runs through a lot of Atzmon’s music which could make it predictable but he is also blessed to be surrounded by the gifted playing of Yaron Stavi on double and electric bass, Frank Harrison on piano and keys, and Chris Higginbottom on drums which make sure there is an element of change, excitement and new ingredients added to the chef’s standard dishes.
The Whistle Blower is beautiful in many ways. It leaves the listener with melodies to savor. It is balanced, well delivered and the varied menu is sure to cater for many tastes. On the album sleeve, Gilad Atzmon states that the compositions are about love, nostalgia, devotion and simplicity — and that he hopes the listener enjoys listening to is as much as the band enjoyed making it. I think it is safe to say that has been achieved.
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