I don't know the reason for the delay regarding the release of this new record by Amit Friedman , Unconditional Love.Finished recording in the summer of 2018, perhaps due to the pandemic hitch that also hit Israel hard, Friedman's third titular job is only now being released almost three years after its completion. Rightly celebrated in his homeland, less known beyond the borders, Friedman leads his sax, especially the tenor, towards a brilliant dimension of clear and open sounds, with an often tight but extremely precise phrasing in the articulation. His playing perhaps does not present extremely original characters but, in my opinion, is in line with the path of other saxophonists such as the American Eric Alexander, at least in the most extreme moments. In the slower pieces Friedman never lets himself go to swooning, airing some resemblance to the soprano with Javier Girotto or perhaps even with Paul McCandless of Oregon, for certain melodic intentions with a slightly melancholy feeling. With a dedication to his father, a jazz lover who evidently transmitted this transport to him, Friedman edits Unconditional Love thanks to the well-structured contribution of his group that follows him on this path.
The line-up consists of the talented pianist not yet thirty years old Tom Oren , Gilad Abrad on double bass, Yonatan Roses on drums, Amos Hoffman on oud , Rony Ivryn on percussion. The vocal interventions of Joca Perpignan and Doron Talmon complete the band . The disc plays formally rigorous but captivating, pleasant and linear jazz, occasionally opening with Hoffman's oud to some more traditional sounds typical of the Middle Eastern homeland of the musicians. Home at lastis the song that debuts in the tracklist and is structured in two distinct parts. It initially announces itself with an intriguing melodic line which, next to the sax, is crossed in unison by the piano and the double bass. Then there is a very brief stop that makes us think of the terminus and instead, from here on, the piece definitely takes off and Friedman demonstrates everything he can do, that is long, fast and uniform phrases well supported by the rhythm. Mal-mal follows , very melodic which owes much to Oren's crystalline pianism. The track travels along the tracks of a certain singability that is never cloying and always intimately intertwined with the rhythmic effort of the double bass and the drums. Name droppin 'it retains part of the relative catchiness of the previous piece but here the sax takes all the space it wants and launches into a long solo, followed later by the piano which is certainly no exception. This leads to the title track of this album, that is Unconditional Love. Here we are in the realm of the ballad and the saxophone literally sings a song, slow and expressive, with the accompaniment of the "snare brushing" - the brushes rubbed and dragged on the snare drum - as happens in all respectable ballads. The atmosphere becomes more "Nordic" and generic, it seems, in fact, to listen to the Martin Tingvall Trio with the addition of the saxophone. Rill-roolit is precisely the song that reminds me of the comparison made a little earlier with Javier Girotto and his Aires Tango, for that Argentine air that runs through the entire musical development. The sax and the piano compete in a head-to-head duet highlighting all their great expressive technique.
Blues for Jackito is an immersion in post bebop, in a Bluenote atmosphere of the '60s, with syncopated rhythms, a lot of swing and just as abundant craft and in addition even the classic double bass solo towards the end. Remaining in the context of the song it is the turn of Alma, with the persuasive voice of the singer and percussionist of Brazilian origin Joca Perpignan, naturalized Israeli and member of the Idan Raichel Project. The South American influences that were perceived in Rill-rool are felt even more markedly in this track, leaving a strange flavor, as if the group had genetically transformed for the occasion into something other than itself. Sunsetis caressed by the sound of the oud which with a very expressive solo continues the deeply melodic approach set in this second part of the record and would keep it so were it not for Friedman's generosity that leaps in an almost Parkerian mood towards the closing. Song form returns with Stride by stride with the clean voice of Doron Talmon, the 35-year-old blonde Israeli singer who reminded me of Stacey Kent in certain vocal inflections. It closes with a surprise. One of Paul McCartney's best songs, the Junk waltzbased on his second album released in 1970, practically immediately after the breakup of the Beatles. A piece that glides smoothly like oil on the notes of Friedman's elegant approach, respectful of the melody but which finds a way and time even for moderate improvisation timing.
At the end of listening to all this Unconditional love I find myself thinking of that unspecified number of excellent jazz musicians around the world who perhaps do not have that "something" that would make them unmistakable to emerge as they deserve. However this is an elegant and superior class work, which is appreciated for its easy usability and lack of harshness.