Gilad Atzmon

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Reviews of Gilad Atzmon


16/03/2009 John Fordham, The Guardian 4 stars

In a recent interview, the virtuoso Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon agreed that his albums were tamer than his live shows – because he felt the fiercest heat of the moment might be just too much for the average living room. Judging by the reaction to his album launch show at St Cyprian's, he is overcautious. Accompanied by his regular trio and the Sigamos string quartet on his new programme dedicated to Charlie Parker's sax-and-strings music of the late 1940s, the fiery Atzmon took his show from a demure chamber-music lilt to a Coltrane-inspired roar and back, and the crowd was right there through it all.

Atzmon blazed over the wistful arrangement of Everything Happens to Me, and his fast fills zigzagged around the soft swing of Just Friends, with drummer Asaf Sirkis masterfully imparting drive without distracting noise. But this show was no bop-nostalgia exercise: on The Burning Bush, Atzmon joined the idiom to the tone bends and vocalised wails of Middle Eastern music, shifting the tempo from brooding laments to frantic dances and coming close to Coltrane's A Love Supreme in the later stages.

If I Should Lose You got a Latin treatment, and Atzmon's Refuge brought some animated phrase-swapping between his clarinet and the lively string quartet. The second half was more varied, moving from a misty
clarinet-strings rumination to electric funk, an improvised conversation with pianist Frank Harrison, and a part-impassioned, part-jokey soprano sax
passage that turned into salsa. Atzmon's knack for joining jazz-improv surprises to widely accessible lyricism keeps finding new outlets.


12/03/2009 Mike Hobart, Financial Times

Gilad Atzmon, Saint Cyprians, London
Published: March 12 2009 22:48 | Last updated: March 12 2009 22:48

Gilad Atzmon’s latest project showcases his rich-toned alto sax and woody clarinet by adding a subtly voiced string quartet to his working rhythm section. Called In Loving Memory of America, it is part homage to a seminal recording session – Charlie Parker’s Bird with Strings – and part contemplation on a young man’s infatuation with America. At a gig that launched both the album and a short UK tour, the serene surroundings of St Cyprian’s church were a somewhat surreal setting for Atzmon’s bullish anti-Zionist activism, but added to a delightful evening of artfully crafted music that was rich with emotional complexity.

Atzmon, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1963, was aged 17 and preparing for military service when he first heard Parker’s alto sax on the radio. It was a personal defining moment, the start of a love affair with jazz and the land that gave birth to it. His relationship with America is now somewhat soured, but his music has ripened into well-rounded maturity, and here perfectly captured the bittersweet emotions of lost innocence with a mix of re-worked jazz classics and his own Middle East-tinged originals.

Bird with Strings remains controversial. Parker elevated the American songbook to high art, but the accompanying orchestral players seemed to have little understanding of his music. This gig showed how much has changed, with the well-tempered, note-perfect string quartet shifting through romance, irony and despair on the point of a pin. The arrangements, mostly by lead violinist Ros Stephens, referenced the original Parker recordings, enhancing mood and delivering contrast. And from the opening plunks of “Everything Happens to Me” through the abstract scrapes of “If I Should Lose You” to the world-jazz-driven Atzmon originals, they impressively integrated classical textures with jazz delivery.

Atzmon followed in Parker’s footsteps with confidence, giving the show-tune melodies full weight and limiting virtuosity to a few isolated cascades. Atzmon’s trademark mix of jazz and Middle Eastern music was also reprised with edgy, string-embellished arrangements of “Burning Bush” the sedate “MusiK” and the Latin-tinged finale “Refuge”. The encore, a first outing for the haunting film noir theme “Laura”, was a delicious added treat.


01/01/2000 John Lewis TIME OUT

"Atzmon is an astonishing musician with a seemingly effortless ability to demolish and rebuild any old tune he chooses to play."


01/01/2000 Nina Caplan, Metro

"Atzmon sends his soprano sax and clarinet soaring over complex rhythms from all points of the globe with a poetry that never forfeits control."


01/01/2000 Tony Richards Musician Magazine

"A revelation, a multi-reed man of enormous talent."


01/01/2000 John Fordham, The Guardian

"A formidable improvisational array...a local jazz giant steadily drawing himself up to his full height...a blast of fresh air in the UK"


01/01/2000 Brian Blain, Jazz UK

"Audiences are clearly bowled over with Atzmon's whirlwind approach...dynamic, charismatic and...exasperating!"


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