Often diatonic more than chromatic the sense of melodicism is exceptionally strong here in the latest from New York-based Israeli saxophonist Oded Tzur with his Here Be Dragons quartet on this Manfred Eicher-produced Lugano studio recording. Forget the brief rumbling dirge of a scene-setter 'Invocation' go straight instead to 'Noam' with its luminous, windswept, hymnal quality the gracenote embellishments from pianist Nitai Hershkovits ushering a listener in as Tzur goes transcendental and bittersweet blue.
'The Lion Turtle' is introverted, again a peace anthem of sorts, the parameters of melodic statement and concomitant improvisational resource kept to strict limits.
As for the 10-minute plus title track 'Isabela' on which the album either rides or falls (it ultimately rides) Hershkovits' touch is beautiful in the introduction to the prelude to the theme that eventually unspools from Tzur, again an immersive hymnal sense developed even more fully than on 'Noam'. Drummer Johnathan Blake whose more straightahead Blue Note outing Homeward Bound was excellent back in the autumn, carves out a lot of space opening out like Elvin Jones on A Love Supreme. In other words he doesn't play groove.
For a sense of composure you will search far and wide and not find that feeling so evident here. Listening to Hershkovits in particular I recalled a 2014 night circa Almah when the pianist was in bass matador Avishai Cohen’s trio at Ronnie Scott’s providing counter melodies to Cohen’s elaborate figures. The pianist certainly has a strong romantic side to his playing grounded in classical music with little grace notes drawn from Israeli folk music folded in during more expressive runs. It is different here with Tzur, far more elemental in a sense like a mysterious proverb whose wisdom it is clear and whose message lingers long. SG