Joys And Solitudes
Yonathan Avishai piano
Yoni Zelnik double bass
Donald Kontomanou drums
Recorded February 2018, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: January 25, 2019
Pianist Yonathan Avishai, first heard on ECM as a sideman for trumpeter Avishai Cohen (see, e.g., 2017’s Cross My Palm With Silver), makes another debut for the label, this time in triplicate with bassist Yoni Zelnik and drummer Donald Kontomanou. With the exception of opener “Mood Indigo,” Joys And Solitudes consists entirely of Avishai originals. That Duke Ellington evergreen is the first of a uniquely expressive forest. Its roots are deepest, and its leaves, here pruned with utmost care, are a living record of the tune’s many interpretations. Avishai approaches it with understated brilliance, as if clearing a grove for the prayers to follow.
“Song For Anny” begins in reverie and ends in revelry, joying in the memory of a loving friendship whose blossoms have only grown suppler with time. Buoyed by a willingness to let the melody breathe, filling and emptying its lungs at full capacity, this music rounds every sword it encounters into a butter knife. As in “Joy,” a deeply considered sense of development prevails, taking in the landscape as it burgeons rather than trying to paint over it prematurely. Any lushness one might attribute to these tunes is therefore indicative of an inner life, in relation to which Avishai is as much waterer as planter.
Whether playing solo (cf. “Tango,” meant to evoke the mood of Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner’s Ojos Negros) or in full swing with his bandmates (“Les Pianos De Brazzaville,” inspired by trips to the Republic of the Congo), Avishai gives precedence to the moment at hand. And while the trio can certainly swing, the sensitivities of each musician come out most vividly in the slower dives. In particular, “Shir Boker” quietly showcases Kontomanou’s non-invasive cymbal work, Zelnik’s ability to blur distinctions between supporting and leading, and Avishai’s in-between-the-lines style of exposition. Nowhere is this expressed so articulately as in the 12-minute journey of “When Things Fall Apart.” Written as a creative response to Avishai Cohen’s “Into The Silence” (from the 2016 album of the same name), its narrative is so full that to add or remove a single comma would render it fallible.