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Live Sessions

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Album Review

What comes across most consistently throughout jazz pianist Gilad Barkan's second release, Live Sessions, is not only his chops — though they are plentiful — but his confidence. And not only the confidence that it took to follow up a studio debut with a double-live set featuring a different band on each disc, but the confidence that keeps that chops-heavy playing in check. Barkan is obviously capable of extending his improvisations to the farthest reaches, but instead he rarely strays far from the melodic core, choosing to explore as much as possible within context rather than strut his virtuosity for its own sake. This is, of course, a conscious choice: Barkan's masterful pianistics are rendered in the service of the song, not to prove himself to anyone, and the music breathes more healthily for it. "Modulation," the second track on the first set, a piano-bass-drums trio session, was the title track of Barkan's first album, released in 2004. At that time he played it modestly, formulating the boundaries of the piece, expressing its themes vividly, but ultimately laying low. On the live version he takes to the wind in the midsection, but never does he lose track of where he's been and where he needs to return to. With his Israel background (he now lives in Boston), you might expect Middle Eastern elements to find their way into Barkan's playing, and they do, albeit in subtle ways — for example in the celebratory, dance-happy rhythm of "Amaravati Devi Is Getting Married" (also a redo of a song from album number one) on disc one — but he's just as likely to visit Brazil, as on disc two's breezy (and teasingly titled) "Not a Samba." That second disc finds Barkan working with a different rhythm section and adding flutist Amir Milstein to the mix, resulting, not surprisingly, in an entirely different aesthetic. Here the sounds are more playful, more flighty, but no less inspired. Barkan is an imaginative and fleet-fingered player, a composer of some depth, and a generous and determined leader. He gets the most out of his tunes, keeps the moods accessible, and promotes adventurousness without feeling the need to squeeze the life out of every chord and note he plays.

Live Sessions, Gilad Barkan
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, World
  • Released: Jan 11, 2007

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