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Avital Meets Avital
Omer AVITAL (b.1971)
Zamzama [7:55]
Lonely Girl [7:40]
Ana Maghrebi [4:58]
Maroc [5:35]
Hijazain [6:34]
Ballad for Eli [4:38]
Avi AVITAL (b.1978)
Avi’s Song [4:51]
Prelude [2:13]
Moshe VILENSKI (1910-1997)
The Source and the Sea [3:24]
Avi Avital (mandolin/mandola)
Omer Avital (bass/oud), Itamar Doari, (percussion), Yonathan Avishai (piano/keyboards), Uri Sharlin (accordion)
rec. 2016, Funkhaus, Nalepastralle, Berlin
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 6523 [47:55]

And now for something completely different. Avi Avital, a classically-trained mandolinist, has made several CDs already. My colleague Brian Wilson reviewed his Vivaldi recording which he enjoyed. There is also a recording of Bach (DG) which hasn’t been reviewed as yet. From what I’ve heard of the Bach disc via streaming, Avi Avital is an inspirational musician. His playing of the slow movement of the Violin Concerto is very moving; reminds me of “Truly Madly Deeply”. Here he teams up with Omar Avital who is no relation and is a jazz bassist. Together in brilliant sound they’ve created something special. This is “crossover music” if one has to categorise it. Music is either worth listening to or not and I loved this.

The music and playing on the CD show the Israeli origins of the performers but the overwhelming impression is of East Mediterranean summer holiday music. It’s very difficult fully to explain in words music that has only recently been composed. It certainly isn’t conventional “Classical Music” nor is it "Rock" and the term "World Music” doesn’t cover it either. What it certainly is is atmospheric, original and totally absorbing.

Samsara starts the CD off with a melodic riff that recalls Pink Floyd’s early Set the controls for the heart of the Sun before developing into a more jazz-based piece. Lonely Girl is a yearning Eastern European song where the mandolin, oud bass and other instruments sound like a Greek influenced Concierto de Aranjuez; yearning and powerful. Ana Maghrebi is a kind of bossa nova with some lively playing and shows Omar’s prowess on the double bass; makes one feel like dancing. Avi’s Song is a lively work which makes one feel that this would make an ideal background for a drinks party on a hot evening as the sun goes down. Perhaps it slightly outstays it’s welcome but it is fun. Ballad for Eli is haunting and beautifully played. One point I must make is that the tracks are varied and show a wide range of musical colours. Prelude shows off Avi’s mandolin skills, although they are not in question.

Maroc leads us into heavier territory and is more jazz-based with keyboards and percussion. Again it would be good to dance to. Both performers originate from Morocco and the influence of that country's music is evident. Hijazain returns us to a mournful atmosphere with what seems like a funeral beat. The sadness evoked is very moving and shows Omer Avital’s skills as a composer. The CD ends with a piece by Moshe Vilenski, a Polish-Israeli composer and “a Pioneer of Israeli song”. With heavy use of double bass and plaintive mandolin, it brings the disc to an end in a hymn-like fashion.
An exceptionally intriguing and enjoyable set of performances of modern music. Not classical but well worth trying out.
David R Dunsmore




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