Assaf Kehati Quartet – Flowers and Other Stories
Artist: Assaf Kehati Quartet
Album: Flowers and Other Stories
Label: AK Jazz
Sounds Like: Pat Methany
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production / Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 10/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skills: 10/10
Best Songs: The Most Beautiful Flower; Calling Me Home; The Snow and the Sun
Weakness: I can’t think of any.
Strength: Musicianship; Songwriting; Emotionality
I love jazz. I love the evocative nature of jazz. I love the way the music paints a picture inside my head as I listen. I almost always listen to jazz with my eyes closed so that nothing of the world can intrude on my senses. I am very partial to sax-centric jazz opposed to guitar-based.
Listening to the Assaf Kehati Quartet has changed my opinion of guitar-centric jazz. Kehati is almost prodigy-like in his phrasings and solos. He is geometric and polished in his improvisations. There is nothing insincere about his playing. He’s hip but he doesn’t shove his hipness down our throats. His intonations are evocative, emotional, exotic, and almost erotic. There were times during my listening of this album that his guitar sounded like a Fender-Rhodes electric piano. I kept wondering how he did that. Farber (sax) alternately soars and crawls with his solos. He is sometimes dark and playful at other times. He’s expressive without overplaying. He took me to great heights and then laid me low to the gutter with his passionate phrasing. Sapir (bass) and Schlomo provide a rock hard rhythm section for Kehati and Farber to rally around. Each and every composition on this album is passionate, flowing, dynamic, and groovy. I am impressed with every aspect of this album because each song was able to transport me, in my mind, to a place where life is rich with promise. Oh yes, these cats can play.
Track One “Calling Me Home”: The intro is very haunting and strangely picturesque. The piece descends into some fits and starts and then ascends into a lush melody with some brilliant musicianship. The solos going back and forth were all at once vibrant, lush, and colorful. Track Two “Mr. Mario”: This song seems a bit quirky and frantic. The solos are absolutely vibrant but a little disconnected and disjointed for my taste. The melody is almost dreamlike. Track Three “Tali”: This is the only piece I did not entirely like. It seems too “Kenny G – esque” to me.
Track Four “The Most Beautiful Flower”: In this piece Kehati paints a luxurious landscape filled with his guitar as a brush laying down strokes of a terrible beauty in the landscape. The sax solos provide a coloring of haunting dimensions. I almost fell into a quasi dream-state as I listened to this. It’s my favorite piece on the album. Track Five “The Snow and the Sun”: This piece picks right up where “The Most Beautiful Flower” leaves us. It is a natural segue. The two compositions seem like a companion to each other. Maybe, these pieces should have been bookends to the album. One opening and the other closing the album. In my opinion, song selection and placement are the keys to the conceptual nature of an album. Track Six “Don’t Attack: The sax sings in a plaintive and furtive voice. It meanders around the guitar phrasings being laid down in a whispering interludes. The guitar and the sax are alternating in a whispering and shouting fashion. One ascends as the other descends almost as if they are struggling to reach the top of a hill taking one step up and two steps back. I thoroughly enjoyed track Seven, “Invisible Green”. But, it seemed as if it was just a showcase for Kehati to flex his muscles as a soloist. There was, in my opinion, no real discerning melody. There was no muscle.
My overall rating is 9/10. I changed my opinion about guitar-centric jazz when I listened to this album I was never a fan of the guitar in the jazz world before. I’m still not but I love Kehati’s playing and the way he moves his playing to a spot just outside the traditional confines of jazz.