Pianist Roy Assaf and bassist Eddy Khaimovich hail from Israel, as does Romen Itzik, the drummer in their quartet. But they didn't know each other before they met in New York in 2006, while attending the Manhattan School of Music.
Both Assaf and Khaimovich began their musical careers playing in classical organizations in Israel; neither became involved in the jazz scene until they'd been in the States for several years. They soon were recognized for their exceptional talents and began to play with name jazz units in the area: Assaf with luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Taylor, and Khaimovich with James Moody.
They also worked with trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who guests on this album. Saxophonist Robin Verheyen (a fellow student) rounds out the group.
Every tune is given a modernist treatment. The standards are re-harmonized and performed in different keys - for example, something originally written in F minor is shifted to F major - and the meters are varied throughout the performance.
Now, unless the listener has perfect pitch, or is totally familiar with the original chart, those changes won't be evident ... but they become a significant challenge to the musicians. (I've always felt such arrangement "adjustments" are done more for the sake of the artists than the audience.)
No matter: Everything is melodic, quite listenable and; most important, it all swings nicely. This may be truly modern jazz, but it's still very good.